It was the end of the year. Mason was about to finish second grade. He was extremely behind and he knew it. His family was looking for a San Diego reading tutor. At night, Mason’s mom searched “reading tutor San Diego” again and again. Eventually, I had the opportunity to work with Mason.
Struggling readers try to avoid reading
When he walked into the room, he averted his eyes and refused to sit down at the table. He saw books sitting in a stack. Those books made him nervous. In class, the teacher and his peers expected him to read, but so far he had no knowledge of reading. He didn’t even know letter sounds. As a San Diego reading tutor, I’ve worked with many students like Mason.
Decodable books improve reading skills
Mason had memorized lots of words, but he lacked sound-by-sound reading methods. When he encountered a decodable book, he couldn’t read nearly any words. When he read a more fluid book that he’d never seen, he couldn’t read those either. In Kindergarten, Mason memorized a few books at home. He had tricked his parents into thinking he could read.
Kids can only memorize about 2,000 words, and there are over 250,000 words in an English dictionary
Yet, soon he stopped memorizing books. The amount of books coming home became overwhelming. He gave up on the memorization method, a method that can only last into second grade. Cracks in his knowledge began surfacing. His mom sought a San Diego reading tutor to help.
Reading Tutor San Diego
When Mason found out I was a reading tutor, there was immediate distrust.
“I can’t read,” he said bluntly, looking downward.
“That’s okay,” I said. “For now, I’ll read out-loud to you.” As his San Diego reading tutor, I eased him into reading.
Reluctantly, he slumped down in the chair. He didn’t believe he would ever learn how to read and so he acted out doing other things he thought he might be successful in, like doodling, playing with Legos and talking.
Struggling readers often develop behavior problems in school
Mason’s mom described his behavior at school. Mason often asked to go to the bathroom. He talked to his peers while his teacher talked. He made jokes in class, and though he was a funny kid, the teacher was frustrated with his attention-seeking behaviors. Mason’s mom was frustrated too. Whenever she tried to read with him at home, Mason screamed, “I can’t read mom! Stop! You’re not helping!” At the end of their sessions, Mason and his mom were in tears.
Many struggling readers develop behavior problems as a way to cope with their reading difficulties. Since they can’t read, they become bored in class. They try to find activities to engage their minds. No one is teaching them in a way that works. Thus, they seek ways to teach themselves—they develop their memories, their social skills, their sense of humor…etc. Their behaviors are a cry for help. Struggling readers really just want a reading intervention that works.
When the behavior problems worsened, Mason’s mom said that’s when she started searching for a San Diego reading tutor. She wasn’t sure if anyone could help. However, she was driven to help her son. She hired me as her San Diego reading tutor. She was sure if Mason would pay attention during sessions. “He will do everything he can do avoid reading,” Mason’s mom said.
Systematic phonics instruction targets the student’s level
However, as Mason continued to work with me, he saw that I always gave him material that he could be successful in. I never ever set him up for failure. Every single lesson was designed specifically for him, targeting his weaknesses and highlighting his strengths. Soon, he knew all the letter sounds and he even began to blend and segment letters. He read leveled decodable books. Eventually, Mason began to trust me as his San Diego reading tutor.
In school, some of his coping mechanisms didn’t stop. He still told jokes. He still spoke to peers during lessons. But his teacher said that he started engaging more during reading time. He felt more confident. He brought his decodable books to school to show his teacher he could read.
Decodable books develop reading skills that transfer to the real world
I remember the day Mason realized he could read texts outside our sessions—words in the world. He loved Little Critter books. I read them to him before our sessions. Soon, his mom bought him some and he paged through them on his own. One day as I was reading Little Critter, I paused and asked him to read a sentence in the book.
He refused at first. I said, “You can read this.” He looked at the first word and began reading. He read a whole Little Critter sentence on his own. His eyes lit up with joy. He read a line in his favorite book series. He was thrilled and so was I.
Mason eventually became a good reader. As the gap between him and his peers narrowed, his behavior problems diminished. Soon, he focused during school. He read out-loud when the teacher asked. He even proudly talked about how he helped one of his friends learn to read at school.
Soon, Mason began asking me for homework. He wanted to study reading on his own. I sent home decodable books with him, sight word lists and some phonics units to study. Eventually, he became a focused learner. Perhaps most importantly, Mason became confident in himself as a learner. He realized he could reach his potential.
For more information on struggling readers and behavior problems check out:
If you’d like decodable books, check out The Printable Phonics Books Library