Hey Mary! Sorry to hear about Malia’s struggles with reading. I can feel your frustration and totally understand. I’m sure you will get lots of advice and two cents, here’s mine (take it or leave it 🙂 )
Reading is so complex and complicated. There are so many different pieces to the puzzle, that sometimes it just takes a while to identify what is going on.
Here’s what we did, and maybe you can take something from this…
Preface this with…Rhett doesn’t struggle with reading. He is doing very well with it. But, that’s NOW. First of all, he was identified as having those speech problems back when he was 3, remember all of my drama with that? They basically scared the crap out of us at 3, telling us he would forever be behind, etc. etc. if we didn’t address the speech problems right away. So overwhelming and hard as a parent. I think his one-on-one attention with the speech therapist all those years really helped his reading. He was getting a lot of extra, specific exposure to sounds and words and concepts. I credit that with his being able to read so well out of the gate. I’ve always read to him, a lot, since he was born. He started looking at books and memorizing words, without really “reading” them when he was a toddler. My focus then was just getting him to love books and love the act of reading. Since he was about 9 months, we read 4 books a night. Started with baby books, and graduated from there. Rhett started BOB books at 4. They really helped him to learn beginning words. But, OMG, I remember when he first started those and he wasn’t really “reading” how frustrated we would get with him. He started really reading a little at 5 when he was in pre-K. But, he plateaued big time that year. He was at a stand still, and that’s where our big frustration came in. I stepped back from it over that holiday break, and just let it be. I decided that I wouldn’t consider it a “problem” until he was done with pre-K. After a few months, his reading picked up big time. I can not tell you what a jump we saw. In my opinion, it was just developmental. Just his brain making huge reading gains. Since then, he has continued to do well, and we have not hit another plateau. We read one book to him every night, he reads one to us, there is a 3rd that is either/or, and then he reads one chapter of a chapter book silently in his head. We started working on silent reading when he was 7.
Reading is pushed at K and 1st so much more than when we were younger. And that is part of the problem. Because developmentally, it just doesn’t click with some kids that young. It may take them longer in general. In K, they worked on sight words a lot. Those were not a problem for Rhett. The hardest part for him was spelling them back for writing purposes. He still messes up quite a few to this day. Spelling them back is a whole different skill, and the writing part usually comes after the reading part. Rhett is a work in progress there. In 1st, they worked more on actual writing, the beginnings of writing. They still combined sight words, and then started adding harder concepts. This year in 2nd, they are writing a ton! Writing is Rhett’s least favorite thing of all, because it is the hardest. It requires him to work the hardest, therefore he doesn’t like it as much 🙂 His teacher is doing a great job with it, because she does not want the kids to hate writing. This is where I see the interplay of speech, reading, and writing the most. For example, Rhett spelled “thumb” on his papers last week as “fum.” Because he was saying it completely wrong, in his head and out loud. He still has some letter combinations that he has to practice and really think through, because otherwise they come back to bite him in the butt.
He gets lazy about sounding words out. When he was 6 & 7, he would always look to us for cues and want us to sounds things out for him. But, that is a problem. To be able to grow as a reader, the reader needs to learn to sound things out by their self. We just refused to sound things out that he should know (I will still sound things out if they are much harder things). There are different things you can do to get them to sound out, but you may need some expert help there. Rhett’s speech teacher helped us a lot with stuff like that. He had to learn to stop looking to me for my cues and for my sounds. That was present through K. He would do it with the teacher. He would be quick to ask her for help, instead of figuring it out himself. They worked hard with him in K and 1st on that. So now, he is not perfect, but he does much better sounding things out. He still gets lazy and sometimes when I say “sound it out” he claps back with attitude and says “no.” We just come up with ways to deal with it depending what’s going on. And see, attitude is a whole different piece of the puzzle. Because I feel like Rhett cops more attitude with things I push him on now than when he was younger. And then I feel like we have to address the attitude piece of the puzzle.
It sounds like you are doing a lot of good things already! The BOB books are great, a great way to focus on the basics. I would recommend sticking with those, and/or adding similar books. Don’t do books that are too “hard.” That way, Malia can feel like she is gaining ground and confidence along the way. What is her teacher saying? Does her teacher think it is a confidence thing too? I’m no expert, but don’t be afraid to talk to testing/special ed/whatever it’s called in your school, about testing to identify potential problems. It is much better to find them early and start working on them early. Malia’s struggles could be coming across as confidence, when they might actually be something else underlying. It could be something very simple, and easy to address, or more complicated. This is so hard as parents, because this is the part where things might not be so obvious to us. What I hate about that stuff is that, with us, a lot of Rhett’s speech issues were developmental and he did “grow out” of them. However, he would not have “grown out” of them quick enough before he needed the skills to start reading and writing. And that is a big dilemma. It’s like, you are kind of at the mercy of the school time-table. Even if there are things that might resolve on their own, or Malia would grow out of, you don’t want her struggling with school in the meantime. And it’s all related. For example, in 2nd, Rhett has to do Math word problems all the time! So, even though he is good at math, if he was struggling to read, he would struggle with those word problems. If you are noticing certain patterns, write them down and keep a list. Because that might narrow down the issue. To work on confidence and attitude, come up with a system that is in Malia’s currency. For example, she has to work on XYZ for so many minutes per day, or has to do XYZ practice work/exercises per day in order to gain something that she wants (her currency). That might make it a little more fun and make it feel like a more achievable goal for her. For example, Rhett gets 10 spelling words per week and has a test on Fridays. We work on the words a little bit each day. On Sundays, after his homework (he has a ton this year!), for every word he spells right out loud, I give him 1 M&M. He loves that and gets all excited about it. It won’t work forever, but it works for now.
I feel like there is no one magic answer. It may take some detective work on your part and the teacher’s part, and maybe testing. Hang in there, and know you are doing your best even when your frustration sets in. Stick with it, and it will get better. It is good that you reached out to get feedback, because that might help you get where you need to go.