I remember going in for a parent/teacher conference a full 6 weeks ahead of the normal first quarter parent/teacher conferences. I figured this meeting would be about her continued need for speech therapy.
I was wrong. Way wrong.
Instead I learned that my child was behind in every subject, but mostly phonics and counting to 50.
The counting to 50 was easiest to fix. I cut 3x5 notecards in half and wrote the numbers 0-50 on them. We started going through them, well at least 20 of them, every night. Within a week, this issue was fast receding as an actual issue. Well, except for 11-19. Those numbers don't follow any real pattern which makes them harder to memorize. Still, 0-50 was looking pretty good.
Phonics versus Sight Words
Phonics... you've heard of them, right? You've heard how amazingly important they are to your kid, right? Well, honestly, I think phonics are important and overrated at the same time.
I never learned phonics. Whole words were the "learn to read" method of my time and the schools I attended. I went through my entire adolescence without ever learning them. AND I SURVIVED!
I know, you're totally amazed and in awe of me. I'll give you a minute to process it all....
Go ahead. Snort and roll your eyes at me. It's fine. I get it.
My eldest was/is learning phonics and struggling with it. Here's what was happening:
There was a disconnect between the letter sounds and the actual word.
The situation frequently become frustrating on both sides (parent and adult). There were tears. Soon my eldest was claiming, "I hate reading!"
It was a bad scene every night at our house. Homework caused so much pain. Phonics helped not one bit. If anything, phonics was making things worse.
Our kindergarten teacher wasn't helpful. To her way of thinking, phonics was the solution. But it wasn't working for us. Repeatedly focusing on phonics was causing too much stress.
We were lucky though -- and that luck appeared in a most surprising way.
During PreK-4 my eldest received speech therapy at our local public school. We had a relationship with the speech therapist, Ms. Amanda. Since speech therapy was still needed, I called up Ms. Amanda to have a meeting.
Now, in our state, when your child attends a private school, they receive services at the NEAREST public school. I tried to force my local public school to provide the services, but the superintendent was firm (stubborn and I'm still POed at him). We are still getting the necessary speech therapy though, so it's a win.
At the meeting with Ms. Amanda, the primary school principal and reading specialist were also present. The reading specialist assessed my eldest, said that she did need reading help, and provided us with a list of games and methods to improve her reading. We were grateful and they worked. (I'll post about those soon.)
The principal listened to me talk about where the breakdown was in phonics. She laughed. "Some kids don't get it."
I stared at her, flabbergasted. But she nodded and explained that she'd taught K, second, and fourth grade. In her years of experience, some kids simply did not "get" phonics initially. She claimed that comprehending phonics was not a teachable skill so much as a learned skill. Basically, she suggested we continue with the spelling and speaking of letter sounds, but allow our child to memorize the words. In other words, increase the number of sight words our child was learning.
With more words memorized, my eldest started to overcome her reading issues. Knowing more words increased her confidence and she was willing to try again. The tears stopped.
It wasn't perfect, but it was working.
Then the books came home.
After winter break, my eldest began bringing home 2 books per night to read and return. It was part of the class Bookworm Club. It was MORE homework.
I'm just going to go on record and say that homework in Kindergarten sucks. Big time.
The frustration and tears returned. The difference this time was that I wasn't willing to put up with it. If a book was too hard, we simply put it away. I told my daughter to tell her teacher it was hard and she needed a different book. Her teacher 100% supported this policy and willingly allowed book swaps.
But I took it one step further and asked my eldest to write books with me.
I made her an author!
Yes, I made her an author at the age of 6. And she loved it! Together we've written four books and are working on more.
Basically we pick a theme, like zoo animals. We write one sentence using sight words and then we sit together scrolling through images and my eldest picks the image she wants to use.
We are slowly publishing them so every kindergartener out there can read them. Plus, if we can do it, any kid can do it. Reading is something everyone can love. Our hope is that you will love reading as much as we do.
Introducing the I See Easy Reader Series:
Currently these are all print only. I published them early -- before the school year ended -- so my eldest could take them to school and show them to her teacher and friends. The ebook versions will release starting in June 2018.
We both hope you enjoy them and that, if you are learning to read, you have an easier time of it. It was our goal to make reading fun.
What do you think of how we've handled our reading challenges? Tell me in the comments below.