Kids Can Be Harmed by 'Reading' Instruction
by Bill Sardi: The
One-Percent Revolution: National We-Won’t-Pay Day
Momma D is
at her wit’s end.
She is exasperated
at how many times she has to instruct her child to put on his socks
in the morning. Her whole repetitious litany begins again when her
7-year-old boy, Jeffrey, has to be told numerous times to pick up
his toys, brush his teeth, finish his homework.
raising a kid who is going to be a criminal," she says in a
raised voice. "He doesn’t listen to a thing I say!"
child is also a behavior problem at school. His 1st-grade
teacher says he is disrespectful, he won’t read in unison from the
chalkboard with the other kids. She says he isn’t trying. She caught
him writing down answers to a test in pencil on his desk top. Another
time he barked out the answers to a spelling test to all the other
kids in the class. Pulling "bad behavior cards" and sending
him to the principal’s office didn’t curb his uncooperative behavior.
His teacher suggests home schooling.
Momma D tells
off her husband, saying she has had to bear the brunt of this all,
that he isn’t sharing in disciplinary measures and not taking the
lead as father in the home. Momma D is thinking about a divorce
she is so exasperated with both her child and her husband.
help from the gardener, not the school system
whom to share her frustration with, one day while in the garden
she mentions in passing the challenges she faces with her child
to the gardener whose wife just happens to be an accomplished self-employed
reading and music teacher. Momma D takes her child to her for some
extra learning sessions.
this boy is getting good-to-excellent grades in math, spelling and
social studies, but his reading isn’t up to par. Even special classes
have only marginally improved his reading speed and fluency.
the reading and music coach, notices Jeffrey had learned to read
and do math the hard way. Jeffrey adds 7 + 3 by saying in his mind
"1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8, 9, 10." He is adding the long
way around instead of starting at 7 and then 8, 9, 10.
a list of words to spell he memorizes them instead of spelling them.
When asked to spell "dog" he thinks of the position of
that word on the spelling list and tries to recall how it was spelled.
If he improperly recalls the position of the word "dog"
as the next word on the spelling list, which is "cat,"
he will write it out as "c-a-t" even though it isn’t even
phonetically close to "dog."
He is getting
good grades but doing it all without learning how to properly add
or spell. He has some unlearning to do. Teacher Mary Beth starts
him on a phonetics program.
By the third
encounter with Mary Beth she thinks Jeffrey is exhibiting signs
of dyslexia (he is writing his "d’s" backwards like a
"b" and visa versa). She suggests he undergo developmental
parents are shocked to learn why he won’t follow instructions
and his parents are off to visit a specialist who tests kids for
developmental problems. After two hours of testing, the evaluator
calls Jeffrey’s parents into her room and asks: "How many times
do you have to ask Jeffrey to put his socks on in the morning?"
Momma D responds:
"At least twenty times."
says this should not be surprising. When Jeffrey is shown instruction
cards and has them read to him, he properly followed the instructions
three times out of ten, about normal for his age group. But when
the evaluator had Jeffrey turn away and face the wall and she read
a different set of ten instructions he was able to properly perform
ten of ten.
were stunned. What did this mean?
he isn’t able to process verbal and visual commands together in
a coordinated and understandable way," said the evaluator.
Jeffrey also had problems getting his two eyes to work together.
He was having trouble tracking words across a page, or writing words
in a straight line even though the paper was lined.
Not a word
was said about "tracking" problems at the private school
Jeffrey attended. His father, a bit miffed, headed down the street
from home to make direct inquiry of three teachers who lived on
the block. All three said they believed Jeffrey was having "tracking
problems" which explained his reading difficulties. For some
unexplained reason, school teachers and administrators were late
to refer Jeffrey for developmental testing.
just one of an estimated 15 million American children who have developmental
problems. Jill Stowell, MS, author of At
Wit's End (2010, Green Dot Press) says: "What teachers
typically don’t do is work below the level of these content areas
of reading, writing, spelling and math to train the brain to pay
attention and process information more effectively. Teachers generally
do not have the funding, training or time to provide this kind of
She adds that
"Attention problems often clear up when the processing problem
parents and slow learners out of the woods?
it wasn’t till the 1970s that Patricia Lindamood, a speech pathologist,
teacher, researcher and author, discovered that the reason people
had trouble learning to read was not because they couldn’t see the
letters and words properly or because they had bad teachers or reading
programs. It was because they could not process, or think about,
sounds. The sounding process supports learning. Even the best phonic
programs may be ineffective if the brain can’t hear the sounds,
this all headed?
after entering 1st grade Jeffrey’s parents were finally
urged to take him for developmental testing offered by the public
school system and/or be examined by a pediatrician. His parents
correctly felt this might stigmatize their child and lead to the
predictable suggestion their child be placed on a stimulant – Ritalin.
A private testing center had already been contacted by that time,
as mentioned above.
Kids with attention
problems shouldn’t be treated as if they have a drug deficiency.
Exasperated moms may acquiesce to the drug approach, feeling they
can’t take it any more. Kids on Ritalin, an amphetamine-like stimulant,
then can’t get to sleep. Developmental therapy is a drug-free approach,
In her book,
Stowell says she has heard it all – the myths about kids with learning
problems – that they just aren’t smart, that they are lazy, they
aren’t motivated, that they can’t be helped or they will grow out
of it. Stowell says these are kids that can hear but not listen;
children who can see but not read.
learning may not be age appropriate
What many schools
are doing is accelerating their programs and teaching reading two
or three years earlier than when their parents learned to read.
But between the 1st and 3rd grade, when kids
are developing, some slower than others, is when these reading disabilities
go undetected. Bridgit Gergens, PhD, a California educator, says
by 3rd grade they will be two years behind.
entered 1st grade at his new school he was tested for
reading and his parents were informed then he would never be able
to catch up and enter 2nd grade. Were his teachers saying
they can’t teach?
Our kids are
being placed under inordinate pressure to read. Their curriculums
are not age appropriate. Kids are doing an hour of homework each
night in the 1st grade! Frustrated kids who are falling
behind in the 1st grade will likely become angry by the
disease has also spread across the Atlantic. In Great Britain, the
school system there is introducing a new
national reading test, to be taken by all five- and six-year
olds at the end of their first year of compulsory schooling, to
assess their word-decoding skills. The test consists of reading
20 real and 20 made-up words. Only a third of these youngsters passed
the test in a pilot exam. The brighter kids were trying to take
the made-up words and make them into real words, which led to the
poor pass-fail rate.
kids get stigmatized
MD, author of Overcoming
Dyslexia (Vintage Books 2003), says "a substantial
number of well-intentioned boys and girls – including very bright
ones – experience significant difficulty learning to read through
no fault of their own."
says: "The harsh realities of the day in and day out experience
of living with reading disability (dyslexia) can often clash dramatically
with the perceptions of those teachers, administrators, acquaintances,
and self-appointed opinion makers who question the very existence
of the disorder (dyslexia) that holds so many captive."
founder of Stowell Learning Center in Chino, California, says she
is challenged by teachers, school administrators and doctors who
insist "it can’t be done," but has observed miraculous
results in her own learning center.
goes on to say that most parents and teachers delay evaluating a
child with reading difficulties because they falsely believe the
problems are just temporary, that they will be outgrown. This is
simply not true, she says.
She, like Stowell,
says a key to learning how to read is to have a child read words
out loud so they can listen to the words and teach their brain how
they sound. Then when they read, they "hear" the word
being said in their brain.
says early on, in the preschool years, children who have difficulty
pronouncing words, who persist in baby talk, who have trouble learning
nursery rhymes (Jack and Jill; Humpty Dumpty), who can’t read the
letters in their own name, are likely to have difficulties reading
as they enter school.
book Overcoming Dyslexia is a classic, but it is a long and
difficult read for a busy parent to wade through. The best starter
book for frustrated moms and dads is Jill Stowell’s At Wit's
End. It helps both parents and children.
kids on the reading railroad
systems are leaving kids standing at the train station instead of
seeing that they move forward on the Reading Railroad. Kids need
to learn to read so they can read to learn. When kids are slower
readers and the school system has a special school for slower learners,
the schools may be quicker to refer the kids for testing hoping
they won’t be saddled with these kids and ruin the school’s aggregate
test scores. Parents are going to have to take charge. Working parents
don’t have the option of home schooling. Don’t let your kids get
stigmatized, drugged, or embittered. There are many resources available
to help them to read.
lessons here are: (a) be alert for early signs of reading and learning
difficulties; (b) recognize behavioral problems and inability to
follow instructions are critically linked to the ability to listen
and read; (c) obtain developmental testing as early as possible;
(d) don’t allow your child to be drugged just to appease your own
frustration; (e) early on, have your child read out loud so they
can hear themselves and imprint in their brain what words sound
like when they read them; (f) recognize school systems are attempting
to teach kids to read before they are ready.
him mail] is a frequent writer on health and political
topics. His health writings can be found at www.naturalhealthlibrarian.com.
latest book is Downsizing
© 2012 Bill Sardi Word of Knowledge Agency, San Dimas, California.
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