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Well, At Least He’s Reading

October 10, 2009

My oldest son has some learning disabilities. Chief among them is a real problem with reading; he’s almost 11, but reads at a six-year-old level, if that. He struggles. Contributing to the problem, or perhaps stemming from it, is that he just isn’t interested in the written word; he’ll glance at a book, then toss it aside in favour of his collection of soldiers, or a movie, or a video game. Books aren’t in his orbit.

While we’re working on this through the education system, it has long been a theory of mine that once he finds something he wants to read, he’ll enjoy it more, and reading will become less of a chore. Once he discovers the joy of a good book, I thought, the reading will come easier.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve tried different books to get his attention: the Chronicles of Narnia (“I don’t get this book.”), the Hardy Boys (“too old!”), Harry Potter (“I didn’t like the movies”). Many other books have been handed to him and ignored. I’ve tried comics, with limited success. I got him those Eyewitness Guide To books on Star Wars, the military, ancient Egypt, but he wasn’t interested in them beyond the photos.

Last night, I was cleaning out his backpack after school and found a book. A big, heavy book. “What’s this?”

  • “I’m reading that,” he said.
  • “Cool,” I told him. “How far into it are you?”
  • “Not far. It’s hard but I like it.”

So on the one hand, I was encouraged that he’d finally found something that spoke to him, a book that he could enjoy. On the other hand, I was shaking my head as soon as he left the room. I felt the same way I felt last spring when I realized his lasting impression of Star Trek would always be the new movie, and that Chris Pine would be more memorable to him than William Shatner.

The book was Twilight.

This morning, after thinking about this, I guess I should leap that nerd hurdle and just accept the fact that he’s finally interested in a book, and leave my feelings about the Twilight series at the door. As he put it, “It has vampires and werewolves and it’s really cool.” And I can’t fault that.

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2 comments

  1. Hi,

    Having worked with countless older children who read at a first grade level, and having coordinated and designed graduate programs on reading disabilities, I have to disagree with you. You may be right, but probably not. Here’s why:

    1)In addition to quality instruction, developing proficiency in reading requires that children read lots and lots of easy, interesting material. If your son is not doing a lot of reading, he may have great trouble in high school and the adult world.

    2)Many children who want to read show disinterest in reading. This protects them from failure, of having to say “I tried and I failed.”

    3)By reading little, he’s missing opportunities to better understand the world and to build a large vocabulary. When word recognition is not a problem (and it may not be), a lot of knowledge and a large vocabulary are critical for understanding advanced texts.

    So, what to do? I recommend four things:

    1)Read to him daily. Make sure that what you read to him interests him and intellectally challenges him. Discuss the readings; this creates interest.

    2)Have his reading evaluated by someone with at least a master’s degree in reading disabilities (not special education or learning disabilities). Under federal laws, scholls are requied to do this if a reading disability is suspected. (Think of the word disability as a unfortunate legal term.)

    3)Speak to school personnel about the services available.

    4)Look at and experiment with text-to-speech software and audio books. See if your son likes them and if they help him learn better.

    Keep in mind that my recommendations are for a child I don’t know and thus may be off the mark.
    For lots of free information on reading disabilities, go to http://www.reading2008.com/blog.

    Good luck.
    Howard Margolis, Ed.D.


  2. I just had to comment that I literally LOL when you wrote “The book was Twilight.”

    As someone who encourages literacy, I gotta say let kids read whatever they want. I got my friends into reading by sneaking them Donald Goines books… what 12 year can resist reading about pimps!? Age appropriate – no, but at least they are reading!

    cheers!



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