Moms of struggling readers have to wade through many voices. Everyone has an opinion on why a child can’t read. Explanations pour in from well-meaning friends, family members, teachers and the principle.
WHY CAN’T MY CHILD READ?
Friends offer advice based on what happened with their own child: “Aidan just learned how to read right away, like magic…I just read to him.” Some teachers will say there is no problem, that your child is just “a late reader,” while others will say there is. The doctor might say he’ll “catch on.”
Most advice is misguided, contradictory, and pulls moms in different directions.
MANY EXPLANATIONS ARE LUDICROUS
Here are just some things moms have heard in response to, “Why can’t my child read?”
-You’re a working mom.
-There’s a new baby in the house.
-You’re a single mom.
-Your child has a low IQ. (Does an administrator’s/teacher’s IQ ever come into question when they fail to teach your child to read?)
-You have too many children. The mere existence of more children can interfere with the phonological processing route?!? But please, go ahead and have more children so we, the school, can use them as a scapegoat.
-You’ve moved recently. She’s just getting used to a new school. Wait.
-You’re child has a bladder problem. Since he goes to the bathroom all the time, he misses instruction and can’t read. Take him to a doctor. Get this bladder issue fixed. (Perhaps the child goes to the bathroom all the time, because he wants to escape instructional methods that make him feel like a failure).
-You’re child just hasn’t “caught on” yet. There’s no need to worry. You must have anxiety problems. Are you okay?
-Wait. Wait. Wait. Still can’t read? Wait until…after Halloween, after Thanksgiving, after the Holidays, because that is when reading really “kicks in.” You must be impatient. How does someone like you survive a grocery line?
– You didn’t read enough books to your child. You must’ve been prancing around wine country during those birth to five years.
-Your child can’t focus. (A seemingly valid reason. You go to his class and see that yes: he is one of the few children in class that isn’t focusing. But did you ever ask: could there be another reason? Children with attention issues can learn how to read.)
-You’re divorced. Your child senses the pressure and uncertainty in your life, inhales anti-reading divorce-related bacteria and now can’t read.
-It must be a hearing or vision issue. Your child has gotten his ears examined—they’re good—and he has new glass. Six months later, he still can’t read. He must’ve gotten the wrong prescription.
-You’re child is developmentally delayed. (All the brain areas required for reading—vision, memory, object recognition, speech—are all developed before age six! Wouldn’t you know if your child couldn’t see, speak, remember object names, and identify human faces??? Yet, this reason tends to be the most pervasive. To see more on this read: Reading Is Not a Milestone: Part One –The Brain Science
-Even reasons that seem acceptable, like he has dyslexia, auditory-processing issues, or a language delay, are not good enough reasons to have a second grader that can’t read. There’s research-based, time-tested methods that can make these children not just readers, but good readers. Nancy, a dyslexic adult, was told she’d never learn how to read. Finally, she received a method of instruction designed for dyslexic students. She then learned how to read at 52 years old: When Nancy Learned How to Read at 52 Years Old
The messages are clear. You are not a good parent and something is wrong with your child.
what if something is wrong with the school’s method of instruction?
THE REASONS ARE SCAPEGOATS
What if they have it wrong? What if all these reasons are scapegoats to deflect the real problem: instructional failure.
WHY CAN’T MY CHILD READ? IS IT EDUCATIONAL MALPRACTICE?
I call it educational malpractice: when a child is given a method of instruction that doesn’t work for him and he’s given this method again and again and again until finally, his self-esteem cracks, his smile fades, he begins to wonder, really contemplate, what it means to live life as a “stupid” human being. He accepts the idea that he’s less capable, he accepts the bullying from kids that can read, he accepts that his opportunities in life might be limited.
But reading is still like approaching a crouching tiger. The indecipherable words inspire fear. He comes home crushed. He’s afraid to go to school the next day.
Take his hand. Lead him away from educational malpractice. Because what if it’s not you? And what if it’s not your child?