Article by Jacki Reinert, Psy.D.
With just a little over a month left of school, it’s time remember the impact that daily reading can make for students. Shaywitz’s (2003) graph below says so much
For those who find reading a challenge, summer is the time when just a little bit of intentional, focused oral practice every day can help a student get them back on track and regain their confidence.
For those that find reading and writing especially difficult, it’s a great time for multi-sensory scientifically based instruction, sometimes referred to as Orton-Gillingham or Structured Language approach, with a tutor trained in these methods to solidify skills. It’s time to work on skills that are lagging behind their peers, without the fatigue created by spending the day in the classroom. Students have a marvelous opportunity to make strong gains.
Whether you’ve planned some “academics” for your children or not, below are some ideas for summer activities. In addition, you could consider rewarding your child with an end of the week treat if they read at least a certain amount of time minutes for at least five days in the previous week (an old fashioned chore chart works well for this). 20 minutes a day 5 days a week is less than 2% of summer vacation. How much time do they spend practicing sports, playing computer games, or other things. Make reading a priority this summer.
Below are some ideas to encourage and enjoy reading. Need some ideas for “treats/rewards”? Try a DQ, a new book, a special dessert, and — a favorite at our house – having a picnic dinner.
- Find a movie based on a book. Watch the movie, then read/listen to the book. Talk about the differences and similarities.
- Go to the library and borrow some books and games.
- Pre-read some of the books that will be part of next year’s reading. (Get that list from the teacher before school ends.)
- Do a read-out-loud book.
- Make dinner together—read the recipe, measure the ingredients, learn about the chemistry of cooking.
- Play board games and card games.
- Encourage your child to read to a pet or younger sibling/neighbor.
- On a rainy day, have your children curl up with comic books or magazines.
- Have your child plan a dream day somewhere. Be creative: they could write about it, make a collage, research with a travel book, or just talk about their ideal day. Make sure you share your ideas, too.
- Have a TV/technology free day.
- Once a week, “drop everything and read” for 15 minutes … everyone in the house has to participate.
- CREATE A READING HABIT!!!
Shaywitz, S. (2003). Overcoming Dyslexia: A new and complete science-based program for reading problems at any level. New York, NY: Vintage Books.
This is a nice comparison from Dr. Louisa Moats in her article The Whole-Language High Jinks: How to tell when ‘scientifically-based reading instruction’ isn’t. We need Scientifically Based Reading Research driving our reading instruction. (Moats. L., 2007, pg 18)
Below is a great letter written by JM Lawrence of Grapevine, TX to help a parent respond to an email from a teacher about her child’s behavior during a language art activity. The teacher indicated that she knew the child had difficulty with reading and spelling. The child also said, “this is only easy for people who can read”. Some of the laws she references are specific to TX, but it’s a great letter that I thought needed to be shared. Thank JM!
Dear _______, _______, _______
I am sorry to hear from your email that X continues to struggle with reading and spelling, which causes her to act out. Her disability, dyslexia, is at the root of the issue and it is time to protect her access to the education offered her peers. Emotionally, you can see that X would rather “look” angry and defiant than “stupid” to her classmates. She is NOT choosing this behavior, it is her protection mechanism that has developed in your building, in response to teachers and administrators choosing to delay appropriate instruction to teach her to read using methods scientifically developed for students with the characteristics of Dyslexia. While our district is not choosing to participate in the Pilot for Act 69 Early Dyslexia Screening and Intervention, it does not mean that our school does not have the obligation to do the right thing and assess my daughter for Dyslexia and provide Free Appropriate Public Education including reading instruction that meets her needs.
John King’, US Secretary of the Department of Education, used these words in his testimony before a Senate committee, “But, the IEP team would be expected to address the screening for Dyslexia as a part of the assessment of the needs of a student who is struggling.“ This is Secretary of education acknowledging that IEP assessment teams should reasonably be administering testing instruments that can be used to identify Dyslexia? As the voice of the federal department of education, he is voicing support of for my daughter who struggles to read, being identified, for her disability and then being “taught to read.”
I am requesting that the district follow federal disability guidelines and provide my daughter with “Dyslexia” testing because her characteristics are those of a student with Dyslexia, whether or not she qualifies for Special Education, our school has the federal responsibility to help her learn to read. If the school does not have a person that is qualified to identify Dyslexia, then I am requesting an Independent Educational Evaluation of my daughter with a credentialed Dyslexia provider.
Please respond to this request in writing within the next 5 business days. Until the district chooses to follow the law and provide X an appropriate education for a child who can be identified by section 504 ADA laws, when an assignment requires her to read and write, at grade level, please send her on an errand to a place where she can be helped through the assignment.
I look forward to hearing that you have received this correspondence and how you will be addressing my daughter’s needs for FAPE.
The following is from Kyle Redford, Dyslexic and Educator.
To see Kyle’s story watch “The Big Picture: Rethinking Dylsexia”.
it screams of shame. Additionally, if it’s a secret, it’s also scary.
The Privacy Dilemma
by Kyle Redford
As a teacher, I have encountered many parents who feel that sharing information about their child’s learning challenges will hurt their child’s self-esteem or diminish their chances of being successful in school. The truth is, when students see their teachers and parents whispering and being discreet, it screams of shame. Additionally, if it’s a secret, it’s also scary. It is human nature to fill an information void with worst-case scenarios. Ironically, a decision made to protect a child can often breed shame and fear.
It is understandable why parents choose to whisper and hide their child’s academic challenges; they don’t want their sons or daughters’ potential to be limited by low expectations.
Many parents also fear that the information or diagnosis will land in the wrong hands or in some file that will follow the student around and ultimately hinder his chances of getting into an elite school or college somewhere down the line. The problem, however, is that fear can prevent the student from getting access to key remediation or accommodations from which he/she would benefit.
The reality is, students don’t grow out of their dyslexia. Despite the legitimate excitement that results from a “good year” or a learning breakthrough, dyslexic students carry their unique challenges and strengths with them through the grades. Certainly their specific challenges will morph over time. For example, decoding words and spelling are a main obstacle in the early school years; in secondary school, keeping up with the volume of reading and writing is the central challenge. Over time, dyslexic students normally become more adept at dealing with their academic soft spots, but special support is critical to helping them achieve their full potential. The truth is, information about a student’s dyslexia needs to follow that student around. Instead of worrying about what is in their child’s file, parents should make sure that crucial information is shared among their child’s teachers.
I cringe when I think of all the instructional time I have lost with certain students while trying to second-guess what is impeding their learning in the classroom. With the right information, teachers are able to develop an academic plan to help dyslexic students minimize their weaknesses and maximize their strengths. For example, using a computer for tests and daily assignments can often be critical to a dyslexic student’s success. The computer’s “spell-check” and standard font allow ideas to be more readable and help to eliminate many mechanical obstacles that can hinder expression of ideas and understanding. Additionally, teachers can offer dyslexics extra time to read class novels and texts, as well as give them advance syllabuses so they can get a head start with required reading over the summer. Spelling mistakes stop looking like “careless errors” and Franklin Spellers and computers help bring students’ editing skills in line with the quality of their ideas.
Educators often indulge the privacy myth without confronting it, thus reinforcing the idea that there is legitimately something to hide. If asked to defend a decision to keep academic information from teachers or students, few will. Most educators say that their discretion is a way of respecting the parents’ wishes, but they would rather be given the permission to speak openly and honestly with students and other teachers. Unfortunately, teachers usually remain silent on this point when parents ask them to keep information private. To challenge parents on a decision to be private takes a lot of courage and conviction.
Another reason parents embrace secrecy is that they want to protect their child’s sense of his own potential. They worry that access to information about their child’s academic profile will make their child feel inferior or deflate his/her ambitions. However, with few exceptions, most students crave candid conversations about their academic strengths and weaknesses. These conversations help students understand how they learn as well as devise thoughtful strategies to overcome their challenges. An honest dialogue also helps students develop the language and vocabulary necessary to advocate for themselves in school.
Offering students specific information helps to demystify their academic anxiety. It helps them understand that just because one thing is hard for them does not mean they will struggle in all areas of school.
Case in point: until a fourth grade student of mine had her test results explained to her, she was privately terrified. Being assigned a new special reading teacher and witnessing hushed conversations between her teachers and parents had confirmed her worst private fear: she WAS stupid.
I could sense her confusion and anxiety as she shifted from being the queen of class commentary into someone who rarely paid attention and turned off during critical instruction. I convinced her parents that she needed to have someone explain her learning evaluation to her. They were reluctant to allow me to use the word dyslexia, but I managed to convince them of the benefits of giving her school struggles a name.
It was amazing what our conversation did for this student’s confidence. Once she was able to have someone explain why reading and writing were hard for her, she admitted that she had been hiding her school difficulties for years. This admission, however, came only after she learned that the same tests that identified her dyslexia also indicated that she had very strong higher-order thinking skills. I was able to reassure her that, as she got older, school would become more focused on the things she was good at, such as abstract thinking, and less on the things she struggled with, like mechanics. Most importantly, our discussion gave her permission to see herself as something other than a poor student. It infused her with the confidence that allowed her to put her school challenges in perspective.
And despite her parent’s fears, this student had no trouble with the dyslexic label. She immediately started using it to describe herself, even with her classmates. I am convinced that if parents could witness the relief and hope that wash over students when they are presented with clear information about their learning profiles, they would never choose the secrecy option again.”
This is a great overview by Dr. Tim Odegard, the new Chair of Excellence
in Dyslexic Studies at Middle Tennessee State University.
It’s a thoughtful overview of dyslexia in less than 10 minutes.
From Dr. Richard Selznick’s (www.drselz.com) most recent blog….
“So with the start of the school year, here are a five guidelines to get you through:
1. Breathe deep a lot – meditate – calm it down. Look, homework is going to make you crazy. Try not to bite on the hook. For the child who has boring homework, seeing you go off is entertaining. Don’t give it to him.
2. Ask yourself, is the work in the kid’s zone of competence? If it is not, if it is simply too hard for the child even with some parental support, then send it back to the teacher with a polite note saying that the work is above the child’s head.
3. If the answer to #2 is yes, then it’s the child’s problem. Repeat after me the following mantra to say to your child, “You’re a big boy (or girl). You can manage your homework. If you choose not to, that’s your choice, but I will have to write a note to your teacher telling her what you chose.”
4. Pecking doesn’t work. Pecking, badgering, cajoling, nagging, yelling generally do not work. Focus on the mantra in #3. If the child chooses not to do the work, don’t get caught up in it. Put the problem where it belongs – on the child.
5. Link “give and you get” messages. Do you think like I do that modern kids are living pretty comfy lives? It strikes me that the arrangement we have with our kids is pretty one-directional (in the kid’s benefit). Start changing the direction by stating, “This year I am tracking you each night on the calendar. It’s either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in terms of effort and taking care of yourself. Good things come to people who have a lot of “yes” showing up on the calendar – we do fun things. When there is a lot of ‘no,’ it’s going to be very boring around here. Which do you prefer?”
So, pour yourself a glass of wine, put your feet up and remember…summer’s not all that far off”
The summer schedule begins on Monday, June 9th. About a third of my students will be new which is always exciting for me. It’s a great time to work on skills that are lagging behind their peers, without the fatigue created by spending a day in the classroom. We have a marvelous opportunity to make strong gains.
Whether you’ve planned some “academics” for your children or not, below are some ideas for summer activities. In addition, you could consider rewarding your child with an end of the week treat if they read at least 30 minutes for at least five days in the previous week (an old fashioned chore chart works for this). Some ideas for treats are: a DQ, a new book, a special dessert, and a favorite at our house – have a picnic dinner.
1. Find a movie based on a book. Watch the movie, then read/listen to the book. Talk about the differences and similarities.
2. Go to the library and borrow some books and games.
3. Pre-read some of the books that will be part of next year’s reading. (Get that list from the teacher before school ends.)
4. Do a read-out-loud book.
5. Make dinner together—read the recipe, measure the ingredients, learn about the chemistry of cooking.
6. Play board games and card games.
7. Encourage your child to read to a pet or younger sibling/neighbor.
8. On a rainy day, have your children curl up with comic books or magazines.
9. Have your child plan a dream day somewhere. Be creative: they could write about it, make a collage, research with a travel book, or just talk about their ideal day. Make sure you share your ideas, too.
10. Have a TV/technology free day.
11. Once a week, “drop everything and read” for 15 minutes … everyone in the house has to participate.
12. CREATE A READING HABIT!!!
From Jill M. Ham, Ed.S. Educational Consultant and Dyslexia Expert from Children’s Dyslexia Center of Georgia
Jill list many of the symptoms that might indicate you want to learn more about dyslexia (reading), dysgraphia (writing), and/or dyscalculia (math).
#1 Issue: CAN read fluently due to memorizing SIGHT WORDS, but cannot decode unfamiliar words, spell correctly, or write complete sentences with punctuation.
• Reading is slow and choppy, not fluent, but reader can re-tell story
• Reading is fast and fluent, but can not recall the information read
• Struggles with attaching the correct sound to the correct letter
• Will say the individual sounds r-a-t but can not tell you the word at the end of sounding it out
• Will say the letter name instead of the sound when trying to sound out a word
• Can not remember the same words on the next page when reading a book that repeats
• Cannot decode unfamiliar words that they have not memorized
• Skips words when reading
• Omits words when reading
• Inserts words that look visually similar, for example instead of reading HOSE it would be HORSE or HOUSE
• Avoids reading and will always check to see how many pages are in the book first
• Eye Sight is Fine, but Vision Therapy May Be Recommended
• Handwriting is tiny, small, large, and changes size
• Writing takes a very long time to due and very laborious
• Always struggled with writing letters in a fluid motion, many children draw their letters with circles and sticks
• Has a hard time copying notes from the classroom teacher or white board
• Phonetically Spells words (missing vowels or silent letters)
• Struggled or still struggles writing the alphabet without hesitations (hesitations occur when the writer pauses or has to stop and think which letter or how to form the letter)
• Will inverse letters when writing (writing letters from the bottom to top, instead of top down)
• Will reverse letters: d, b, p, q, z and many times write a j for g and a g for j
• Struggled or still struggles with remembering the difference between: b, d, p and sometimes m and w or n and u and we typically see the j and z reversed
• Will capitalize the B and D when writing so they do not reverse the lowercase b and d
• Will write uppercase letters mixed in with lower case letters
• Will write above and below the line without using the correct pencil grip
Working & Long Term Memory
• Executive Functioning Deficits
• Struggles with Working & Long Term Memory
• Hard time breaking task or multiple steps into parts
• Takes a long time to learn new concepts
• Learning vocabulary words and commutative information is extremely challenging
• Learns better with visual (concrete information) and hands on
• Struggles with memorizing addition and subtraction facts
• Struggles with word problems in math
• Struggles with memorizing and recalling multiplication facts
• Struggles with multiple step math problems
• Very creative in arts, music, dance, drama, but has a hard time staying focused
• Does not understand the concept of time and struggles telling time
• Struggles with money and counting money
• Struggles with going backwards and forwards on the number line
Homework & Sensory
• May Exhibit Signs of ADD or ADHD
• Low Self-Esteem and Very Self Conscious
• Fidgets, rocks, moves or tries to avoid when given a reading, spelling or writing task
• Homework and studying takes HOURS and MELT DOWNS occur
• Parent is re-teaching information daily/nightly
• May teach new information and 30 minutes later the child does not remember the information presented