If you have more than one child, chances are you have some experience with a reluctant reader. Schooling a reluctant reader can be frustrating for both teacher and student/mom and child! The reason for the reluctance can vary from a medical situation that delays reading to just plain boredom.
As a mom who raised 2 reluctant readers, one with a medical condition and one without, I was fortunate to find encouragement and ways of coping during these years. The approach and remedy to these two extremes of the reluctant reader spectrum are completely different. One is situation that can’t be help and the other is somewhat easier to overcome in attitude.
In taking a look at the reluctant reader with a medical condition, this situation is in itself is naturally frustrating. Caused by something out of the child’s control, a birth defect, an accident, or a processing disorder this situation calls for help outside the family.
If the issue is one remedied through surgery or therapy, there is a sense of relief. Though there’s still a healing period, there is an active response to the situation and something to work toward. Having a therapist to work with you can also be a source of encouragement as you move towards a goal of helping your child become a better reader which in turn helps to create a happier reading experience.
In the case of my child with a medical issue, it was due to an accident that resulted in a Traumatic Brain Injury. When the injury first occurred, there was not as much research on this type of trauma. We were told just to have the child rest and in a few weeks all would be well. Since this accident occurred before they were reading, the signs weren’t obvious. But, after we started formal reading lessons, the problems were glaring us in the face! The process of teaching this particular child to read was similar to watching the movie Groundhog Day. Every single day brought an almost constant review of previously learned short vowel combinations. Every, single, day. Upon inquiring at the doctor’s since the CT Scan came back normal, we were passed along as “normal”. Days turned into school years. At the end of every school year we spent the summer reviewing the exact same reading curriculum we had just completed. Taking a day off of reading was unheard of as any lapse in learning lead to steps backwards. This continued until the child was 10 years old and approximately 5 years out from the injury. Miraculously (and literally) one day this child picked up a book that I was too tired to continue reading aloud and began to read where I had left off. For the first time ever, this child read fluently and with expression. I was dumbfounded!
While I was truly grateful for this breakthrough, comprehension was still a very exhausting process for this child. If time was of the essence, the passage was read correct phonetically but not totally understood. If they could read the story more than once, the second read through was purely for comprehension. As you can imagine, this process was exhausting! It’s no wonder this reader was reluctant!
The best way we found to combat this was either through the listening of audio books or having a parent or older sibling read aloud to the reluctant reader. While this was a good bonding experience, it was not always practical. We did continue to have this child read passages of materials multiple times to try and help develop those intellectual “muscles”.
Now almost 10 years out from the initial injury, this child still doesn’t freely choose reading literature selections. However, they are able to break reading and comprehension into small enough chunks that are manageable. So, if an audio version is not available, learning is at least survivable!
We have discovered now that any reading for enjoyment is done only in small chunks. There is no long leisurely afternoons spent absorbed in a book. For this child, the fact that there they are reading competent and can comprehend materials in small chunks is a victory. We continue to work on this skill and are hopeful that one day reading will move past the “tolerable” stage.