Updated: Feb 16
Is a struggling reader just a late bloomer? Every child develops at their own pace. Maybe we just need to give that child time to grow and mature. They have different talents and gifts. In this blog, I am going to do three things. First I will address this question and let you know what the research says about this. Next, I will give you my opinion about the best places for a struggling reader to be in school. Finally, I will talk about the future of struggling readers. What will happen to your struggling reader when they grow up? Is it likely that they will ever become good readers? Will they be successful?
Is a struggling reader just a late bloomer?
It is very common, especially in homeschool circles, to hear advice like “Relax and let your child be a kid. Don’t worry about it. They will catch on when they are ready.” I know people who have told me that their child did not learn how to read until they were 9 or 10 years old or even older. It seems that when they were mature enough, they suddenly were able to catch on. After that, they were good readers and devoured many books. It doesn’t seem like they needed any kind of special help to become good readers. They only had to be more mature. Their eyes and minds had to be ready. I have heard several anecdotal stories like this. Have you? Do you really want it to be true? I did.
But research from longitudinal studies do not show that this is true. Instead research shows that poor readers are not merely late bloomers. Poor readers do not generally catch up with their peers. Instead, they fall farther and farther behind. (Juel,C. 1988) ; (Francis, D.J. et al1996); (Shaywitz, S. E. et al,1999). Damage is being done to their self-esteem and confidence while they are struggling and wishing to be able to read like others their age.
I do think there is something to becoming more mature. You do want to make sure that they have the eye coordination and the phonemic awareness. You want to help them learn how to be organized with their things and their thoughts. You do want to give them any extra help that they need while they are developing. But young children who are not learning to read do not magically learn to read when they become more mature. Struggling readers need to receive some specialized help for reading. Depending on your situation you may want to hire a reading specialist to work one on one with your child. But don't just wait and hope they will somehow become a good reader.
What is the best place for a poor reader?
Next, I am going to give you my opinion about the places your child could receive schooling while learning to read. Of course, every family is different. You have your own beliefs, opportunities, challenges, and decisions to make. One of my most firm beliefs is that your children were given to you by God. Thus you have the right and responsibility to make the decisions for your children and no one else can do it for you. I understand that sometimes different decisions are better for different people. I do not know your location or situation – so maybe the things I say won’t apply to you. Having made this disclaimer here are my opinions.
The public school
When my daughter was 6-8 years old she was having a hard time learning to read. I was also learning that I didn’t know how to teach reading. I had thought that I did know how to teach reading until she had such a hard time. I was at a loss to know what to do. I had never wanted my children to go to public school. But I had a degree in education and had taught at a private Christian school and I didn’t know what to do. I knew that the other teachers in my school would not have any better idea of what to do than I did. I thought about the fact that at public school there were specialists. I wondered if I needed to put my child into public school. Since then I have discovered that teachers in public schools do not generally know what to do either. Sometimes even the ones in special education or literacy classrooms.
Reading is a very complex skill. It should be taught explicitly in a systematic, sequential, and multisensory way. But many public schools do not have a curriculum that is appropriate. If your child did not learn to read in kindergarten and 1st grade, they are not going to learn it later in school. Laws are changing and there are some dedicated people working to change the way reading is taught both in the classroom and in teacher preparation programs. But as the parent, you need to make sure you know what is happening with your child's reading skills. Do not assume the school is taking care of it.
Your child is more likely to get the help they need if you are able to get an individual education plan (IEP) for them. But as the parent, you need to be keeping an eye on what is happening. I have met lots of teachers who did not know the science of reading they needed to teach dyslexic students. Even those with literacy degrees. So you want to ask what gains your child is making. If they are not moving toward catching up in reading skills they may need more help outside of school. If you are interested in learning more about what is happening with reading in public schools you will want to know about the work of Emily Hanford. You may follow this link to read more about it.
There are public schools now that specialize in dyslexia. They hire only teachers who are well educated on how to help children with dyslexia. Laws in Texas are more dyslexia-friendly and public school teachers are more qualified. But no matter where you live if they are in public school, your child will likely be pulled to meet with the special education teacher with a group of other students. This is unlikely to be as productive as one on one help. Some students need that one-on-one help.
Private Christian Schools
I know Christian schools are unlikely to have a reading specialist. I know they don’t have the money to hire an extra person to pull out struggling students and give them extra help. But I would still rather have my child at the Christian school than the public school. I want my children to be with friends who have a similar mindset. I want the teacher to tell bible stories and teach moral lessons that I agree with. If I were to send my child to public school I know that my child would have little in common with many of the other kids. The other kids would be watching movies and listening to music that we don’t allow in our home. My child would not only be a poor reader but also a nerd. But at Christian school, my children would fit in and make friends. Besides, I know that many teachers, even those with a literacy degree, do not know about the science of teaching reading to dyslexic children. Therefore I would not assume that they would learn to read better at the public school. I would definitely rather have my children in a Christian school than in a public school. But I would know that it was up to me to get some extra individualized help for my child. I would not be able to leave that up to the teacher.
What if you want to homeschool? Can you still homeschool even if your child is struggling with reading? In my opinion, homeschooling is a great place for struggling readers. You may not feel qualified. But if you have the desire and the ability to be home with your children I encourage it. When you are homeschooling your child does not have to be compared every day to what others are doing. Homeschoolers usually read aloud to their children. They involve them in many experiences so that they do not fall behind in background knowledge. You can simplify. There are 2 really important things your child must learn. Reading and math. If they learn these things they have the tools they need to learn for the rest of their lives and to be successful. You will still need to do something to help them become a better reader. You can hire others to help you with reading. If you do not want to do it yourself hire a tutor.
In summary, no matter where your child goes to school you might want to get them some extra help so that they live up to their own potential. You can get one on one help for your child. If you are ready to move ahead with one on one tutoring fill out this form to sign up for a free assessment. That is the first step.
What does the future look like for your struggling reader? Can they be successful?
Yes! Research is finding that 95% of children can become good readers. Only children with severely compromised intelligence are not known to be able to become good readers. That means if your child has normal intelligence they are capable of becoming a good reader. I am not promising they will become fast readers or good spellers but they can become good readers. As the parent, it is your responsibility to make sure this happens. Do not leave this up to the school system. I am not saying you have to become the reading teacher. I am saying you should be aware of how they are doing and if needed get help.
Dyslexic adults usually report that their school years were their hardest years. They were never good at school but when school was over they are able to do things that they were good at.
Examples of successful dyslexic people abound. They are found in every field of work. Your child will also be able to succeed. They can become good readers and they can become successful adults that are a blessing in this world.
Do you have more questions? Maybe a success story or an opinion to share? Please comment below and like this post.