WHEN “CLEVER” DOESN’T ALWAYS HELP

Solving the riddle of why some children struggle to read may be a little easier if we look at a very special aspect of our humanity.  As humans we are very resourceful and will instinctively look to solve problems.  From tiny babies to our old age, if we are presented with a problem, we will set about finding a solution.

 

This is definitely what I observe in our reading clinic on a daily basis, where otherwise bright young children have profound difficulties with learning to read, and often, it is their very own resourcefulness that has in fact compounded the problem.

 

Let’s examine the characteristics of such a child.  We shall call her Sally.  Sally is a bright 9 year old who can engage in lengthy conversations, gets on well with her peers, and aside from her reading, is doing very well.  If you give her something to memorize, like a part in a play, she is probably one of the better performing children in the class.

 

Sally, like most small children, had the opportunity to sit with her parents and listen to stories and nursery rhymes at bed time.  She loved her books and would ‘read’ along. Actually she was so smart that she was able to recite the stories!

 

By the time Sally reached school she was extra good at memorizing the stories, so good in fact that if she had any opportunity to memorize what was being read, she would choose it over actually reading.

 

Sally is now in such a strong habit of memorizing words and sentences, that she hardly looks at the words on the page and is certainly not trying to decode (sound out) the words, so, in this first phase of learning to read, Sally is getting much less practice at decoding words than her peers.

 

It would make sense that if we remove this memorisation characteristic from Sally’s attempts to read, then she should learn to read quite quickly.  Most of the reading clinic clients who are like Sally, make profound improvements rapidly, with most able to read short passages fluently in the first session or two.

 

If, as a parent, you are wondering if this is your child and if what I am saying is in fact true, start with this little test.  Get your Sally to read a little sentence like:

 

“Dad and I took a hike in the park.”

 

Now ask your child to read the same sentence over and over about eight times. Either they will initially struggle to read it and slowly get better each time or like Sally they will read it once, memorize it and then make out they are reading it but actually repeat it from memory. (I know that for most of you who have a Sally, you won’t even need to do this test as you recognize that I am describing your child). As Sally ”reads” the sentence it may even get worse as she makes more errors every time she tries to remember it.

 

If your child is like Sally, the good news is that they are eventually likely to make great little readers but it is not going to happen without some help.

 

We are passionate about teaching children to read.  Solutions that are time-efficient and effective really do exist.  Just keep searching!

 

If you are concerned about your child’s reading, do not hesitate to contact us for a chat or look at www.tyquin.com.au; www.cellfield.com.au for more information.

 

All the best,

Philip Gruhl