Mom-to-Mom Support/9-year-old daughter struggles with reading

9-year-old daughter struggles with reading


I am a mother of four, waiting for number five. I homeschooled for two years. We used a mix match of programs. I have sent my two oldest children to school for the last two years now.  Jazmine is the oldest and is in grade four in the school system.  She is really struggling with reading.  The six-year-old is enjoying and learning to read much faster than Jazmine.  I am at a loss for what to do.  I feel like I have failed here. That is why she is in the system now, and I feel like the system is not doing much better.  I had her tested in grade two for dyslexia.  They did say she was behind in reading but well ahead in other things, but that it was too early to say if she had a learning disability. I know I had trouble learning to read as a child too.  What can I do for her?  It is starting to affect every area of her life.  Her friends love to read and write, but she is still struggling with easy readers.

We are both frustrated and now she is becoming very good at avoiding having to read anything and is in tears trying to do her school work.

Help. I ordered Little Stories for Little Folks this morning from you. Where do I begin? Jazmine and I had a very close relationship but now I feel there is a rift. Please do you have any words of encouragement or some gentle way to get us back on track?

Dear Parent,

As a mother, my heart goes out to you! When our children struggle and hurt, we hurt, too. And the fact that your six-year-old is beginning to read well surely makes the situation even more difficult, as no doubt Jazmine feels even more of a failure that her younger sibling can do what she cannot.

Yet there are some approaches that should help Jazmine to catch up.

First, be strong, remembering that you have the Lord’s help! I will warn you that when a child has experienced failure for two or more years, there will be habits and reactions that will make it more challenging to correct the reading difficulty. That is, as soon as your daughter sees that she has to read anything, she probably feels like a failure before she even starts. So the first part of the plan is to give her some early success, coupled with rewards for a good attitude.

To begin, think of activities or things that she enjoys. Does she have a favorite TV program, cookie, treat, or toy of some kind that could be used as a reward not for reading success, but for finishing a reading assignment with a good attitude? (A stick of gum, 25 cents that can be saved up for a treat, etc.) You might even make a chart to record seven days of good attitude while doing her reading assignment that will result in a trip to the ice cream store or some such.

When you have decided on a reward—again, not for reading, but for her attitude while doing the reading assignments—sit down with her and explain that you understand that she has difficulty reading, and that you had similar difficulties as a child. Tell her that you are going to work together on a very simple program, for only a few minutes each day, and she can earn a reward each day. Stress that the reward is NOT for her reading ability, but for time spent with a good and cooperative attitude. Tell her that the program you will use has four levels; in addition to the rewards that she earns each day, you and she can go out to lunch together (or the park or some similar reward) each time she finishes a level. (There are four levels, with 15 stories in the first level, and ten each in the rest of the levels.)  Pray a Hail Mary together asking for help to be cheerful.

Little Stories for Little Folks is a good place to begin.   Although it will seem way too easy at first, please begin with Level 1, Book 1 and do not skip any steps.   Explain to your daughter that you know she can easily do the exercises and read the stories, but that you are simply doing these exercises so she can practice the way words are formed.

A day or two before beginning the program, please read Step Three: Ready to Read in the Parents’ Guide and look over the first story, so you will have an idea of what to expect.   When you are ready to begin the sessions with your daughter, before reading the story, do the Name Game found on the same page as the story. This exercise helps teach word families so that the student recognizes components of words before they begin the story.

The first session, please do the Name Game, encouraging your daughter each time she finds a word.   Then read the story, followed by the worksheet (on the next page in the tablet) that follows the story. That is it for the first day. Thank your daughter for being so diligent with the exercise with a good attitude, reward her, and stop for the day.

Be sure to do the Silly Willy Sentences (cards are found on cardstock at the beginning of the tablet), starting right after Level 1, Book 6, and again after Level 1, Book 15; Level 2, Book 5; and Level 2, Book 10. (Directions for this game are found under Step Four: Practice for Fluency in the Parents’ Guide.)

Do one story each day, until you see any sign that your daughter is having difficulty. At that point, be sure to encourage her at how well she has been doing! Explain that now she will do the exercises and read the story one day, and then review the next day by practicing the same story. (Depending on her attitude, you could also at this point have her do the Name Game and story one day, then re-read the story and do the worksheet the next day.)

Continue in this pattern as long as she isn’t struggling. As the stories get more difficult—about Level 3– you may wish to have her read the same story three days in a row before progressing to the next level.

In addition, you might also wish to get My Catholic Speller, Level A, when she reaches Level 2 in Little Stories for Little Folks. (The simple spelling exercises in this book reinforce phonics patterns taught in Little Stories.)

Most of all, praise your daughter for her good attitude. “You were so cooperative today! I really like the way you got right down to business! With that good attitude, you are really growing up! Good job! Great work!” etc., etc.

In the meantime, is it possible that you can help her read her homework assignments by reading aloud along with her? (Not reading for her, but reading slowly with her.)

May God grant you serenity and peace as you work with Jazmine. I’ll be praying for you!

In Their Hearts,
Nancy Nicholson

About Nancy Nicholson

Nancy Nicholson is one of the founding authors of Catholic Heritage Curricula. Equipped with an abundance of God-given talent, a major in Secondary Education–English, and years of experience homeschooling her own children, she has written over thirty educational titles, beginning with Little Stories for Little Folks. Her unique ability to develop programs and workbooks that “fit” both advanced and struggling students is due to her experience raising children of different ability levels and learning styles: two of her children are developmentally challenged, while another went on to graduate from Harvard and is now a college professor.