In the years since I retired from teaching, a heavy expectation has been placed on parents. They are required to practice reading for twenty minutes a day with their child. In some cases, they need to sign a statement to that effect every day. This can be the most damaging event for children who are struggling with reading – the one that keeps them locked in failure.
Parents are asked to take this significant chunk of time from their day with no training in how to practice properly. What happens when a student resists being humiliated by failing to read well day after day before his/her parents and family members? The resulting conflict breaks down relationships and leaves the student embarrassed and hating reading.
Anna, who had two young school age children, a 15 month old child, and worked full time, had little time to spend doing the things she enjoyed with her children. She told me that in her frustration she often said, “Get over here so we can get this reading done and get on with our day!” She also admitted that sometimes she had to lie because she just didn’t have forty minutes to spend reading with her two children. All of their interests would have been better served if they hadn’t had this onerous task hanging over their heads daily.
I spoke to a young mother recently whose nine year old daughter won’t even look at the pages anymore. She has given up on learning to read.
Children want to succeed before their parents most of all. For those who fail to read well day after day, sometimes for years, deep ditches of despair are dug. When students become discouraged, and give up on reading, it becomes more difficult for the school to do its job. The sadness that this creates can cause physical illness and depression. It can also result in behavior problems and fractured relationships with parents as children rebel against this waste of their time. When reading is joyless there can be little or no progress.
Practice makes perfect is an old adage. I beg to differ. Practice makes permanent and poor practice makes poor performance permanent.
World table tennis champion and Olympian, Matthew Syed, says it well, “It has to be purposeful practice, with the right level of focus, and you have to be extending your limitations and receiving good training with rigorous feedback or you’re not going to improve.”
The Making Sense Approach to Reading, taught in Vera’s online reading course, shows how to conduct practice sessions that are stress-free, enjoyable, effective, and that build positive relationships around reading.
Do you have a story about practicing with a struggling reader? We’d all like to hear it.
See you next week,