Failing to learn to read is a devasting blow to a young child, and it is usually quite unnecessary. The underlying reason why many bright children find reading hard is that the early reading books they use encourage the wrong techniques. The warning signs are easy to spot.
The good news is that it is easy to correct.
How To Spot The Problem
The children we help have often seemed to do well in the early stages of reading. The alphabet is not a big problem for them and the child has often learnt a few words quite easily.
As things move on, the child starts to guess more words, sometimes with no relation to the word on the page.
Then the books get more complicated and the child’s reading seems to go into reverse.
Eventually it all gets too much and the child’s confidence collapses. By now it can be very difficult to progress in any direction because there will be heavy resistance to reading at all.
Without the right help, the child can get stuck in this state permanently, wrecking their entire education, even though we find it can usually be fixed in a matter of weeks.
As a child approaches a task like reading, it is natural to use what seems the easiest approach. For a very visual child, memorising words by sight will seem the easiest thing to do.
The child will probably be taught some phonics in class. But that does not mean that it really makes sense. And it is hard for a teacher to really know that, or fix it in the time available.
The design of early reading books usually feeds this very situation. They use a small number of words and repeat them a lot. That makes them easy to read for a child who is memorising the words by sight.
But, unfortunately, the child’s reading is not really progressing at all. And eventually you reach the end of the blind alley.
We need to guide the child out and carefully into the right direction.
The Simple Fix
The most important thing is to help the child get a handle on all the different phonemes being used in English. You need to give these abstract sounds dimensionality, so that they are easier to remember. For instance, in Easyread we use classic memory enhancement techniques and connect each sound to a bright, active and slightly surreal image. That makes them very easy for the child to use as a memory hook.
The next goal is to move the child away from the shortcuts being employed of memorisation and guessing. In Easyread we have developed games and exercises specially for this.
Once the child is redirected onto the right path, you need to make it easy to travel. Confidence is further built by steady reading practise. In Easyread we allow the child to read text unaided each day, by floating the images connected to each phoneme over the text. In that way, the child always has support when puzzling over a word.
With these changes in place, we see children who have been struggling for years crack the reading puzzle in a matter of weeks.