Struggling Readers - The five things you might feel when your child struggles in reading..
(Here's a hint: It doesn't feel great!)
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Yesterday I was reflecting on the long road I've gone down with teaching reading to my children. I'm super happy and proud with where my older two are, and I feel like I'm making good headway with my youngest who is also a reading struggler. But it got me to remembering how awful it felt (particularly when I was a first-time mom) to have a developing reader who wasn't as "on target" compared to peers. So - I thought I'd send a little bit of encouragement to you Mamas who might be feeling as I did and to remind you that you are far from alone. (Also, after you read the article, be sure to receive (free of course!) THIS LIST of resources I laid out for you to help your struggling reader, including great articles of encouragement, where/how to find the right tutor, books to read, apps to use & even a list of terms you may need to know on your search).
(Kids struggle in reading all the time - it's not uncommon! But even when your Mommy brain can tell you that fact, your Mommy heart is probably worried. I've been there! I have had struggling readers as a parent who came out shining on the other side, and another who is struggling as a young reader at the time of the writing of this post. Here I'll lay out a few of the feelings I've had as I've struggled alongside my kids, and hopefully it will be helpful to you. So here they are: 5 things you may feel as a parent of a struggling reader.
When your child starts to show signs of lagging behind the other kids in class, or you read articles and lists of "where your child should be", and your kiddo doesn't meet up to it, it starts to worry you! It's natural of course, to be watchful for your child to be hitting his milestones on time, but with so much information at our fingertips and the expectations we have for our kids, the more we furrow our brow with concern when our own child is out of the norm in an area. Thoughts of "What if she'll never graduate?", or "What if she has dyslexia?" permeate our mind as on and on our imaginations go. Here's what I always tell my kids and I'll say it to you in case you need a reminder 🙂 Talk to yourself about the worst case scenario. What if your child does have dyslexia? Is that really the worst of the worst that could happen to your kiddo? No! So much no! It's would be a hurdle - true! But it's not one that you asked for, and not one that you could have controlled. If it IS true, then believe me friend, you got this. Take a deep breath. Your worries can't add another day to your life or change that there are going to be difficulties along the way, many of which will touch your child. Let it go and take it one. step. at. a. time. Worry schmurry. Right?
Isn't it everyone's temptation to look around and compare ourselves to everyone else? And then when your children are born that multiplies by an infinite number because our kids are a reflection of us: what they are wearing, how clean they are, how smart they are, how well-behaved they are, and how successful they are. So how does it feel when you go for a run into your friends on what was meant to be a quick Target run, and it's summer so your kid hasn't bathed in a week, he's wearing one long yellow and one short black sock and having a colossal temper tantrum? It feels GREAT I tell you! (Not) Not to mention the horde of strangers silently judging you from behind their safe shopping carts, children held in place by their homemade basket cushions.
Just know - we have all been there. It's going to get embarrassing. I just want to let you in on the fact that every Mom has been completely humiliated at some point by thier kid (if they're not, they're lying and/or too embarrassed to tell you). But I guess that a good dose of humility is good for the soul. God uses many ways to sanctify a person, right? Kids are definitely one of those ways.
Here's the thing with a struggling reader.. It's two-fold. Because you know that gradually your child is going to also feel that embarrassment as he notices the reading level of others if he is behind. And that worries you to no end. So as parents, we have to get over our embarrassment and begin the good fight. Walk into that teacher's conference with your head held high, ready to listen and act - Whether you are a homeschool mom or a private public school mom, arm yourself with information and outsource if needed. Go a step further and find a way to be an encouragement to other parents of struggling readers.
3. A little lost
What do you do? Where do you begin to even turn to find out if there is a real problem? Where do you go and who do you ask? One nice thing about today's world is this little ol' thing called the internet that we have at our disposal. So go ahead and use that tool! Google away and use common sense to figure out a path to take for your struggling little. Here are a few additional places I'd turn to for help. And they may or may not work for you depending on how you school.
Your child's teacher
The reading specialist at your school
Local tutor - However, a caveat on this one. First, I'd ask any more seasoned mom friends for their recommendations - kinda survey the landscape and see if there is someone local who stands out as great in this area. Second, make sure whoever you choose has experience. You don't really want some high school kid to just read with your child and slowly sound out words. A good teacher/tutor can assess your child as they teach and remediate based on how your child reads. Someone without experience can't do this and can even frustrate your child (and you!) further while wasting your time and money. Also, and maybe most importantly, an experienced teacher/tutor can help you spot red flags that may need further investigation for things like dyslexia, dysgraphia, adhd, etc.
While you're at it, mention it to your pediatrician for any further advice. On top of this list, have your child's eyesight checked with a good pediatric ophthalmologist.
It's exhausting, isn't it? Being the conductor of a person's life. It can be overwhelming and sometimes you'll just feel flat out bone tired. You are super busy, and your mind never ever ever stops worrying and thinking about this little person. Throw in all the emotions and all the steps you have to take to fix problems and that equals one tired Mama or Papa. I have been right there with you. Wanna hear something kinda pitiful? One time when my twins were toddlers, I could not find a single minute alone (and I'm an introvert - I recharge by being alone). I can remember locking myself in the bathroom for just a couple of minutes, just smelling the soaps and lotions as if I were at a day at the spa. Lol! That was it. My 5 minutes of peace. If that is where you are, don't worry! It does get better. I promise! Meanwhile, forge ahead. Keep on trucking. Hopefully you can find some "me time" that is slightly better than five minutes of soap-smelling locked in the bathroom but hey, who cares? Break time is break time. Remember to give that to yourself. Your kids need to see you do that! It may be more intense in the early baby & toddler years, but as time goes, get some hobbies, work, or just something that shows your kiddos how to live life as an adult that doesn't necessarily center around parenting.
I hope you feel proud! Of all the difficulties we go through in parenting, the fact that we get to be caretakers of these precious and amazing children is such a high honor. Your child is amazing, from his head to his toes. Always keep a focus on that. For yourself, and so that you can properly remind your child when he faces hard things in life and begins to doubt himself. Reading for many children can be one of life's first major difficulties. Help her maneuver this road block, and when she is an adult you both can look back and know that you tackled it head on and came out with success. That is something you definitely will feel proud of!
Are you the parent of a struggling reader? I'm rooting for you and I'm rooting for your kid! Reading is like walking: it "clicks" at different times for different kids. If you are in the public school system, or even in many private schools, you are going to have to walk a fine line to keep your child from feeling discouraged while at the same time working toward those state standards that teachers are pressured to have their students perform by.
We are in this together! Be the cheerleader and the advocate. Stand up for your child and don't back down. And chin up - you can do this. Eventually in his or her own time, your child will hit it out of the park!
Let me know if this is you in the comments below, okay? Let's encourage one another. Ask questions. Tell us your story, ask questions, or pass on any more advice that works for you !
Proud Mom of a struggling reader,