Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Harris and Reading

So I thought I'd write a bit about reading and how it's gone for Harris since it wasn't the journey I expected!   I know that there are about a million different ways that children experience reading and that there are probably a million different ways we could have handled Harris' learning to read, but this is how we chose to approach his reading journey.  I should point out that when I was in school getting my education degree, and then my special education masters degree, the whole language movement was in full force.  Obviously, this is no longer the case, but it's very deeply ingrained in me and has influenced my parenting a lot.  Also, and I'm sure that there are lots who could point to other studies, I specifically remember sitting in a lecture where our professor was teaching about brain development and how the "average" brain is ready to start to learn to read at about 6 years and 6 months.  All this to say, this also has influenced our approach significantly.

Grace started reading very fluently and easily in kindergarten.  Once she started there was no stopping her and I sort of made the assumption that Harris would be the same.  After all, we surround our children with literature in our home and we read to our children almost every single day.  However, coming out of kindergarten Harris was not even close to reading but I wasn't worried at all until I got a phone call the 2nd week of school from his first grade teacher.  She was concerned about his lack of reading.  She had recently tested him on the 100 dolch word list for 1st grade and he only knew 16 words.  I asked if the goal was to know the words at the beginning of 1st grade or the end and was told that the goal was the end- so I was glad to know that he got 16!  However, I was told that some children knew 75 or even all of them and that he should get some intervention.

It was hard for me not to panic and jump to the conclusion that he had a problem that needed to be fixed "right now" and wasn't I doing Harris a disservice by not allowing him to participate in any extra help they were offering?  I allowed him to be pulled out of class and taken with other children to a small reading group.  After observing the reading group, I decided that it really wasn't what I wanted for Harris and he was taken out of the group.  It seems to me, and I know that this is a hot topic for many people, that learning to read with other children who are also struggling with reading is not an ideal set up.

When Harris began 2nd grade, I was very upfront with his teacher that I was not worried about his reading and that I wouldn't get worked up about it until he entered into 3rd grade.  He continued to become a stronger reader as the year moved forward, though I think he was always in the lowest group, and I was very happy with his progress.  I noticed more and more that he could sit down and read chapter books, picture books or comic books on his own.  By the end of the year he was doing great and was exactly where he needed to be for third grade.  I don't want to paint a picture of Harris that includes him running to read a book every chance he gets but happily he can and does read for pleasure on occasion. 

Obviously, it could have turned out that he needed extra help and we would have dealt with that as needed, but I just wanted to write down what our journey was in case anyone else was having these same issues.  It seems now if a child is not reading fluenty by kindergarten/first grade they are labeled as needing intervention.  Of course, this is sometimes true but it seems that just as often it's not.  I think we are doing our children a disservice by expecting them to all hit milestones at the same time and according to our schedule and not theirs.  Happy Reading!


  1. Anna! I agree with you 100% Before I stayed home, I earned a Masters in Reading, a Reading Endorsement and a Literacy Specialist Endorsement. I consider myself to be pretty well versed in the teaching of reading AND it breaks my heart to see so many children labeled at such a young age. The joy of reading is sucked out of our children with drill, kill and remediation. Good for you for sticking to your belief in your child. Good for you for allowing him to develop at his own pace!

  2. I think you wrote this for me! Luke has struggled with reading...and I have to admit, I have been panicing internally, but trying to stay calm on the outside. He is in 2nd grade right now..and at the low end of his class...but I am seeing HUGE improvement everyday! I just think he needed a little more time! I can't thank you enough for this post! You must have known I needed it! :)

  3. Anna, I remembered this post and had to come back and read it again today. My son is currently in first grade and is struggling with reading. He participates in the intervention program and has recently become frustrated with missing all the "fun stuff" as he's pulled out daily. It seems like there is so much pressure on children these days. As a former first grade teacher, I am disheartened to think that this experience may discourage him from having a love for reading. I think you are incredibly brave to not get worked up about it until Harris was in third grade and I'm so happy that his reading journey ended happily. Thanks so much for sharing this story with your readers.


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