Could this be the start of a change?

I never had this problem with Andrew. He was a feverish reader from the time he figured it out in Kindergarten. He started reading and never looked back. I have my suspicions that this might have been a result of his “verbal” set backs that he suffered from when he started school. He could not be understood by most people most of the time, including myself and his father. It was quite frustrating for us, I cannot imagine what it was like for him. He was quickly put into the special education system at school when it was clear that even his Kindergarten teacher could not understand him either.

When you cannot communicate clearly in school, there is obviously a problem. The problem was not that Andrew could not communicate. He did, he just could not be understood. He was fully verbal, he just could not be understood. He would talk to you, it was another story that you could understand him. When they provided me with the diagnosis after testing him and figuring out if they could provide him with services at the school, I had to look it up. I knew in my heart all those years ago that there was something “wrong” with my child. I knew it. I just could not get help from all the various avenues. He was “too verbal” or “too adapted.” Of course the opinions all changed when he started school and his teacher could not understand him. It is amazing how perspective changes then.

Anyway, I cannot remember exactly what he had. Some fancy diagnosis and long complex name for something or another. I would have to look it up. The short of it is that he had a processing disorder that made it hard for his brain to tell his mouth to do the right thing at the right time. He would not even hear the right things at the right time. When I did the research it made me cry. My boy at the time was not likely to read – ever.

I had a real good cry and then I wiped away the tears and I pushed it behind me. I was not willing to let the diagnosis define who he was. I certainly was not going to let it discourage him. He was a smart little boy and I knew it. He had so much potential and I was not going to let anything tell him otherwise. I had great faith in him and in his potential. I knew that he had more ahead of him than that diagnosis. We just needed to unlock it all in spite of the diagnosis.

So we pushed forward. He started speech therapy as that was where his biggest problem was. It was amazing. The processing disorder was screwing things up. He was saying the words, but he would saying the syllables out of order. Once I knew what to look for it often made more sense. The training he was getting in the therapy and other things they did with him in his pull out sessions during school were amazing and I do not know what all they did. They retrained his little brain to process what it was supposed to. That is all I care about, the rest is just technical stuff that I do not understand.

By Christmas that year, so just a very few short months that same little Andrew picked up the first Harry Potter book and said he wanted to read it. He was just starting to read at school but he was already quite good. The thing was that with his speech delays it was hard to understand him when he read sometimes. As labored as it would be for him, I did not have the heart to tell him that it would be too hard for him. We conquer things one little bit at a time and reading a book is no different. His teacher was more concerned. I guess she did not want him to get discouraged. I was not worried about discouragement. There are always easier books to put in front of a child. There are always the books that are too easy to read that we can place in front of them for repetition to bore them out of their minds. You know, that mindless drivel that we all love to hate.

I do have to give her credit though, she was worried about the vocabulary being too advanced for a Kindergartener. This was not a concern for us as we have made a concerted effort to make sure the boys are exposed to a lot of words. At the time, their grandmother was living in England and we would let them talk to her if they wanted to. The only drawback there was timing the phone calls for the time difference between countries. I explained to his teacher that if he had a problem with any of the vocabulary he could simply ask his grandmother as she lived in England if we did not know the answers. This seemed to put her at ease.

It took Andrew a year to read Harry Potter, but I did not discourage him from reading it. He was only going on 6 years old at the time and it was a big book. He was just learning how to read and this book was well above his reading level. The accomplishment is that against all odds, that boy did learn to read. He did read and he was reading well above grade level from the very beginning because we never told him he could not. It might not have been easy for him but he did it.

I think in some ways reading was his escape from his difficulties in the world. He could not communicate clearly with us but the books could communicate with him. That was the one place where he could escape from the mental struggle where his brain heard one thing and it processed another. I think his little brain was reading the words just fine and it was processing the visual word just fine. I think he was only struck with part of the processing disorder – the verbal and audible side of it. A verbal and audible dyslexia of sorts. The rest he was blessed to have an escape from it and he became a ferocious reader from the very beginning.

Then we had Kyle. He learned to read in Kindergarten just like his brother did, but it was not that immediate love like his brother, Andrew. In fact, I had some question as to if he was reading on grade level because I could not actually get him to read very often. I knew that this was not uncommon among boys or for some children. I stayed calm about it and tried not to freak out as I knew that he could read even if it was slow and not as fluent as his brother was at the same stage. He certainly did not love it and he certainly was not running to the bookcase to grab Harry Potter. To be honest with you, the very thought of Harry Potter turned him off even more from reading. I hate to say that but it really did.

I actually started to worry about Kyle when I approached his 3rd grade teacher and asked her when she was going to do the annual reading evaluation. They do them every year to find out where the kids are doing as they start the school year. I just wanted to let her know what my concerns were as we went into the school year. I had tried all summer to put a variety of different books in front of Kyle to no avail to peak his interest in anything that kept him reading consistently. She informed me that she would be doing them over the first 2-3 weeks of school and she would let me know the result after it was all done.

It was actually quite interesting to get those results on Kyle. I was honestly concerned about his reading ability. I was concerned that he was behind his peers to be honest with you. When she sent me the email to touch bases with me on the concerns I had shared with her, she basically assured me that they were all completely unfounded. Kyle could in fact read just fine. In fact, he could read not only at grade level, but he was reading well above grade level. She mentioned that he was reading above that of his peers and that while his comprehension levels were lagging behind that of his fluency and reading ability level, she said that is often the case for children that read at the level he reads at. I was floored. I was pleased to say the least, but this raised new concerns.

How do I as a parent of a child that can read so well, and does not read and does not love to read, how do I get them to read? I was dumbfounded. Stumped. With Andrew, I just put a book in front of him and if he liked it he read it, if he found he didn’t like it he would tell me and we would try something else. With Kyle nothing had seemed to work. He just would not read much of anything at all. It did not seem to matter what I put in front of him. The answer I got in response was to keep trying. I needed to keep trying to find that one topic or thing that really spiked his interest and it would just happen.

He did start reading in 3rd grade a bit more. We found some books and to be honest with you, I cannot remember what it was now looking back. I can tell you that the book that really got him reading ferociously was in 4th grade. My mom was reading Eragon. Kyle wanted to read it. My mother looked at me and asked if I was okay with it. I really did not care one way or the other. I mean I let my Kindergartener read Harry Potter what difference would it make if I let my 4th grader read Eragon? So he started reading it. He finished in 4 days. Oh my goodness I had never been so happy to see a child finish a book as I was the day that Andrew finished Harry Potter! He read the stinking book in 4 days! That was the start of the vicious cycle of reading for Kyle. I could not find enough books about dragons and other things to keep in front of him from that point forward. It did not matter eventually as it got to be any book he would find he would read that quickly. He would just read and read.

So here I am as Lance is starting the 3rd grade and I have some of the same concerns with him as I did with Kyle. He does not love reading. I cannot get him to read. He will read the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, but outside of those I do not see him reading much else. I have to practically force him to read anything. I am waiting for his Reading Evaluation to come in for the start of this school year, but his evaluation at the end of last year was a little disheartening because it was not where I thought it should be.

Then last week I saw his stack of library books from school. He gets 3 books from the library this year. He had two short books and then a longer chapter book. That chapter book was the one that caught my eye. It was the first Harry Potter book. It is not that we do not have this at home, we do. It is just that he picked it out himself that makes me happy. He even started reading it. When he went back to school for the next library day, he grabbed his books and he says “I am going to return these, but I am going to keep the Harry Potter one, I am still reading it.” I just smiled at him. He then opened it up to his bookmark and showed me how many pages he had made it to. Tonight he opened it up and showed daddy how far he had made. I can tell you that he has not made it very far, but he is trying. That is what makes me happy. He is trying. That is all I ask. I can handle that. It is the effort. The love of reading starts with effort.

I am hopeful that this is the start of a change of heart for Lance. I am hopeful that this is the start of when Lance starts to love reading and he starts to devour them as fast as his brothers. I love that the others love to read even if it is makes it difficult to keep up with their book habit sometimes. I do want Lance to love to read. I want him to be that ferocious reader.

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