I can’t believe I just found this site today. Of course, I’ve already been doing a lot of these things already. I was doing a little research about the author of the book
Dr. Sally Shaywitz.
And so when you type her into google you end up at this YALE site. I was given this book at a Reading First Conference back in 2005, so that tells you how long I have been successfully following the suggestions in this book with students.
So here are some of my big take aways from this book, Overcoming Dyslexia. When I read this book I start on on pages 122-125 going through students strengths. I think it is essential to start with a students strengths to help build their confidence.
For over 10 years I have helped struggling readers be successful by teaching with quality programs, attending numerous teaching reading professional development trainings, and doing private research on best practices.
Of course I have to say my mom was the best teacher anyone could ever have and it always started in the local public library. I watched her create lesson plans for years and she was always doing fun reading and art projects with us. But I digress.
Every Student Needs A Champion
Every child needs a champion, someone who is willing to go to bat for them no matter what. This can be their teacher, or someone in the school system that cares but most it is a parent. But this is some of my favorite parts of this book where she talks about a parent being a child’s biggest advocate.
I talked to a lot of parents this summer who felt their child wasn’t being challenged enough in school. Every Child needs a champion!
All struggling readers need a champion who will ensure they get the reading help they need, there is research that shows all children will succeed. Parents have asked if they can have a child diagnosed before the age of 8, yes a preschooler can be diagnosed.
There are many researched programs that homeschool parents and school districts can use. But making sure a child is getting taught using one of these programs is essential. I have a great deal of experience using McGraw Hill’s Reading Mastery program with success but there are lots of other programs out there. I also like Anita Archer’s Phonics for Reading and Blow the Lid of the Reading Skills from Jill Jackson.
The first step Dr. Shaywitz recommends parents do is help their child recognize rhymes by reading poetry, singing songs, or sharing nursery rhymes together. On page 178, she gives specific lessons on how to do this, and how important it is to sing, to complete kinesthetic connections, and she gives a list of books for parents to read with their children.
I love Dr. Suess books because he not only used the most common words in the English Language, did you know Dr. Suess got his start when a publisher challenged him to use the most common words students would have to read in a book. The things I love about Dr. Suess books are
- students love them and want to hear them over and over
- they give students the opportunity to fill in the missing word if you leave the ending word out, students will often fill it in
- and they have made up words which give students the opportunity to put sounds together which is a skill they need to master when they read larger multi-syllabic words in 4th grade and up!
On page 180-181 Dr. Shaywitz gives parents some suggestions on reading alliteration with students, where words start with the same letter. I would change one thing here. I would be very direct and explicit by telling students ahead of time. We’re going to read words that begin with p. It has a short sound. The sound p makes is /p/ Then read the poem, then go back and review the sound a child hears, then read it again and ask. But I would make sure I taught it ahead of time.
I was at a PD once where they had a statistic that was something like it takes a student 7 times to unlearn a misunderstanding so if you teach them correctly first they won’t have to unlearn it. This is another reason I really really like Reading Mastery for kindergarten because I haven’t seen any other programs that teach long vowel sounds and short vowel sounds right out of the gate.
I don’t know how many first graders I have seen struggle because they spent all of kindergarten thinking the letter a only says it’s short sound /a/ and never says it’s long sound like in the words rain, or April, etc.
Then I skip to page 220 where she she talks about words that are most frequently found in lower level texts. She stresses the importance of students reading easy to read texts that they feel comfortable reading. I wrote another post on this about from the CORE Reading Teacher’s Sourcebook where they have a chart listing books by level of difficulty and newspapers and magazines were above adult literature.
This is where I think it is important for parents to go to their local library and help their students check out books they enjoy and books that are easy to read. Let them read them to their pet, their younger siblings, their stuffed animals at home. There are many many children’s books that have engaging illustrations and difficult text. Just because they are picture books many are for students up to age 12.
Another great resource is the Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG) professionals read lots of great books. And then you can take the books out of your own library for your child to read at home.
Then Dr. Shaywitz emphasizes the fun in figuring out what a word means or the challenges of understanding something new. She says that for a book to be considered easy the student should be able to read 19 out of 20 words.
I really like Mary Ann Hoberman and Michael Emberely’s books for parents and students to read together. .
She talks about the reading programs that are using cutting edge science directly in the classroom. Can you believe schools are still struggling to help students? Why isn’t every single school following these best practices? IDK It’s as frustrating as why do farmers’ not follow best sustainable ag practices. But that’s a different topic I am passionate about. To learn about that and how nutrition affects your child you might want to check out my Organic Gardener Podcast. I do think there is a lot to be said about cultural literacy and authentic learning in the classroom and community here.
Dr. Shaywitz also gives examples of repeated reading lessons (speed word repetition), goals, the ways to practice reading. I love flash cards. I think they help most students and students love them. The Reading Mastery Coach who would come to our building would remind us repeatedly that some students will learn something with just 3-4 repetitions, most will require up to 70 and struggling readers can take up to 700 repetitions. YES It’s true!
So if you find your student has a memory problem sometimes it does take repetition. This is one of the reason I love lyrics and singing! It’s fun repetition. One thing is it tends to get easier and skills will build upon skills.
Dr. Shaywitz reminds us that fluency training is the best place to start and the most important skill parents work on because not only is it guaranteed to work but because it doesn’t take a lot of time each day or expertise. By helping train your child’s brain to build accurate word models and develop a word form system all students can become confident readers. This will help them rewire their brains to develop automaticity in reading and recognizing letters. from pg 273-274
She then talks about the importance of building a strong vocabulary. I can’t recommend reading books aloud at home together like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlotte’s Web, Holes, any kind of classics chapter books. Here’s a great list of read alouds from the NY Public Library. There are great resources for books to read that are age/reading level appropriate in the back of Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level. Or of course you’re always welcome to reach out to me for suggestions for your child.
I hope this helps you build confidence that your child can learn to read and that they are on their way to gaining confidence by following these steps. It might not be easy but as Angela Watson ends her great podcast for teachers says It will be worth it.
Here’s a great resource from their site of tips from Dyslexic students on how to succeed.
And of course I love the tools at this Understood site where you can see what it’s like to be a child with dyslexia or dyscalculia in the classroom.
And always remember if you are a parent you must advocate for your child’s education. Trust your gut, work with your child’s teacher, and read, read! read!
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