Why Can’t He Read Yet?

School can be pretty frustrating if you have a child who is old enough to read, but not reading well, happily or smoothly.  Is he just stubborn or is something else going on? Here’s some things to consider:

Is he ready for reading?

Some children (boys especially) require a little longer to mature before being able to tackle reading.  If you find yourself teaching and re-teaching the same basic phonics sounds or concepts and not getting anywhere, your child may not be mature enough to retain the information needed to read.  Give it 3 months and try it again. Neurodevelopmentalist Cyndi Ringoen claims that until a child has developed the ability to recall a sequence of 4 numbers you have spoken, they will not be able to retain phonics instruction.  You’ll know when your child is ready to read when he can remember the letters and their sounds from day to day. Before that time, your efforts may not be very effective.

Are you making it fun enough?

If learning to read just means he has to read his math workpage instructions himself—oh joy—there is not really a reason to learn!  I remember a retired school teacher who told me how she got boys interested in reading.  She would read aloud the first part of a chapter in a Tarzan book.  When the suspense got high, she would put the book down, open with a bookmark, and move on to other things.  She often “caught” her reluctant readers trying to finish the adventure on their own.

Just like with anything else, “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”. If reading means he can play a game more independently, order from a menu, read the little notes you leave in his “mailbox“, and other rewarding activities, he has a reason to read!

Are you giving him opportunity?

Sometimes mom is so eager to help, that she doesn’t patiently allow a child to figure things out by himself in daily life.  When it is family scripture reading time, give him a turn and be patient, helping only when needed.  We only remember what we use.  Plus, “who needs to read if Mom will do it for me?”

Does he have the tools?

I love to garden, but I need my trowel, scissors, harvest basket and my straw hat.  Without my tools, it can be less enjoyable.  Does your child have the tools he needs to be able to read?  Basic phonics sounds that accompany each letter are the tools of reading. If you need a fun way to teach phonics, try my twice award-winning  Happy Phonics program which teaches phonics in a game format.

Before I began homeschooling, one of my sons was learning to read in public school, and was hopelessly behind.  When summer came, I determined to help him get up to speed so he could start the next year reading with the same proficiency as his classmates.  I got the needed books and materials, and began the process of having him read aloud to me.  It didn’t take long before I realized that he was operating without any tools! He was uncertain even how to attack an unknown word and decode it.  He had been taught the “look-say” method (which I cynically call “Guess Reading”) and it didn’t give him any phonic skills so necessary to good reading.

Teach phonics, pure and unadulterated. No sight words. No guess reading.  Teach simple and always-to-be-depended-on phonics skills.

A mother came to me once and explained that her daughter couldn’t remember anything she read, which of course, made her not want to read.  I advised her to get books that presented snippets of information, such as interesting animal fact books, and the like. Little morsels of interesting reading with pictures can motivate a child to keep at a book because of the immediate reward, while you get the necessary phonics practice done day-by-day. Comic books are great for this!

The problem of lack of comprehension is really lack of automatic phonics skills. When a child knows his phonics very well, from lots of fun practice, comprehension will begin to soar. What slows down a reader—both in speed of reading and understanding the story line—is the struggle to remember phonics. Once phonics is mastered, reading gets easy and fun!

P.S. I just got this letter from a happy mother:

I wanted to thank you so much for making the Happy Phonics program!  We have been enjoying it so much!  I am using it with 4 of my 6 children right now; my 10-year-old who has struggled in reading, my 8-year-old who has bucket-loads of energy, my 5-year-old who is eager to read and my 3-year-old who won’t miss the opportunity to spend time with Mommy.  Your program takes all the stress out of me teaching them to read and them learning to read.  So please know that you have made our homeschooling a pleasurable experience because you spent the time to help other Moms.
—C.J.

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