Is Your Teenager a Reader?

If not, begin here “X”

Schools have an obligation to teach every child to read by using the most efficient and effective method possible. There is only one way to teach children or adults to read a language that has an alphabet and that one way is methodical instruction in phonics.  Phonics is the Code in which English speech is written down using its alphabetical letters to represent the sounds of speech so that the writer, or another person, can then read back what was written.

This task of teaching a child to read is best begun once the child has attained a verbal and emotional age of six (6) years.  While waiting for that magical age to arrive, each child should have listened to live people…preferably parents, grandparents, and teachers…read aloud and discuss hundreds of age appropriate stories to provide the child with hundreds of opportunities to experience characters, events, settings, and plots.  Such mediated book experiences also provide chances for a child to develop precise speech and sound awareness, a broad vocabulary base, complex concept comprehension, and vital pre-reading skills such as recognition of the ABCs and the knowledge that each story has a beginning, middle, and end.

Read Better!: For Adul... Linda Schrock Taylor Best Price: $14.99 Buy New $20.75 (as of 04:20 EST - Details) Schools have a responsibility to bring each child to literacy by the completion of Second (2nd) Grade.  Let me clarify that.  Schools have an obligation to have all children, except those incapable of attaining a 6 year verbal and emotional level, literate by the completion of Second (2nd) Grade.  I realize that this idea is shocking but, as Peter, Paul and Mary used to sing, “The times, they are a changin’.”  Yes, in the one room schoolhouses of yester year, children were literate by the end of First (1st) Grade, but that was then and this is now.  Teachers today are no longer equipped to teach reading skills as they once were.

In fact, most teachers and most instructors training teachers in colleges and universities (98+%?), do not actually understand what is mentally involved in the reading process.  If they did, they would not continue to promote the same failing methods that are renamed, repackaged, and reused with each successive generation of children.  Children move through the school grades without learning to read because each year those children are faced with the same erroneous, disastrous methods until either the child gives up on reading, or the school gives up on the child. Typically, both situations occur.

I refer to Third Grade as “The Killer Year” because during that grade the children begin “reading to learn” and start to locate information in textbooks.  Those children who are still “learning to read” enter a zone of non-achievement from which few exit.  My mother, a skilled, insightful teacher who taught until she was 74 years old, always said, “The only children who learn to read well in today’s schools, learn in spite of the instruction, not because of it.”  If children have not learned to read by the completion of their Second Grade year, the prognosis is grim.

School problems become personal problems and both worsen with each passing year.  As school problems increase, self-esteem and self-confidence decrease.  One such child might be yours and as the parent, you have surely suffered with your child as peers and teachers reinforce your child’s self-assessment as a failure.  Possibly stupid.  Badly behaved.  Unable to sit still or pay attention.  Disorganized, forgetful, thoughtless, uncaring, disinterested…  The criticism cuts deep wounds into both your child’s heart and yours as at best, school staff do not know how to help; at worst, do everything possible to convince everyone possible that all problems stem from your child and/or from your home/parenting and/or from your family genetics and/or

Well, the schools are mistaken.  Throughout the last 42 years, I have taught scores of these untaught and mistaught children-turned-teenagers-&-adults-without-learning-to-read.  I have taught those who have been cheated out of the value of reading; cheated out of the rewards and joys of libraries; cheated out of vital and important brain development.  Take a few moments to research the term, “School-Induced Dyslexia.”  Spend some time reading at Don Maniac Magee Jerry Spinelli Best Price: $1.11 Buy New $3.77 (as of 08:10 EST - Details) Potter’s website, and at mine, Read Write Spell Better.  Next, please give your teen a message from me; the same message that I tell every one of my students no matter their age or position in life:  “Always remember that your reading problem has never been your fault; never in any way whatsoever!”

BEGIN HERE: Your first responsibility is to help your child to quickly become a competent reader.  Time is extremely important so unlike the schools and teachers that failed your child, you need to succeed and do it quickly.  Your child has already wasted enough time and needs not waste more.

If you have not already found good teaching materials that include methodical phonetic lessons plus  reading practice stories specifically designed for teenagers, then I suggest that you order a copy of my book, Read Better! For Adults and Teens.  You only need one copy because I designed the book for you to sit beside your child and serve as the coach.

Just open the book and begin.  Read the brief introductory information then begin the lessons.  Each lesson is brief, followed by short lists of syllables or words to practice aloud.  Do not be afraid because you are not an official teacher!  How well have those certified teachers done? Right!!  You will certainly do much better than they did and you will soon have your child reading after years of discouraging failure.

As you and your child work through the book, expect precise pronunciation from your child.  Ask that the word lists be reread until the words can be read with accuracy and natural speed.  When your child has learned the pieces of the Simple Code quite well (learned through page 26), turn to Section 5.  After reading the instructions, numbering a paper for the questions following story number 1, set a stopwatch for 3 minutes. Have your child read and answer as many questions as possible in those three minutes. Check the answers; record the score.  If your student liked the challenge of the timed reading, set phonics lessons plus three 3-minute timed readings as each day’s lesson plans.  I chose those stories to be educational and interesting for adults and teens.  Not one is silly or offensive.  The stories test from Second (2nd) Grade up into university levels.  Keep careful records because it will be personally rewarding for your teen to see how rapidly gains will be made.

As you proceed, you will probably notice that the lessons and reading practice are also serving to “rewire” your child’s brain for better thinking, closer attention, the longer memory, and maybe even greater patience in other areas of life.  Children miss that “wiring” process when 1) they are not taught to read in the right way (phonics; left-to-right; care and precision; sound it out; look first; think second; speak third) or 2) at the right time (begin when at 6- Danny the Champion of ... Dahl, Roald Best Price: $1.25 Buy New $4.99 (as of 12:40 EST - Details) year-old verbal and emotional level); then 3)and expected to repeatedly practice phonics with cursive writing and reading books.

As soon as your child is reading the practice stories at a 5th-6th-grade level, add a novel to the lesson plans, taking turns reading aloud, discussing the meaning and new vocab words.  I suggest these two books, even for the girls:  Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli, and Danny, The Champion of the World by Roald Dahl.  The books will be about boys younger than your child  but the stories are fun and interesting.  My senior girls even enjoyed both books!

Continue to teach the phonics and other lessons. Continue to do the three-minute readings, working your way through the book. Go back and study any lesson or reread any story that can be of benefit.

As reading and confidence develop, give freedom to choose reading materials from areas of interests, even if there is a rejection of novels.  I changed one high school student’s life after I overheard him discussing photography with his counselor.  I whispered to the school librarian, who gave him a pile of old Photography Today magazines. The boy began reading those, thus getting more reading practice, so his reading skills improved.  Never one who had been interested in college, he not only went on to university, he graduated from the University of Iowa. 

Encourage your child to read about anything…snakes, snails, coins, motorcycles, car repairs, travel, ghosts, 4-wheelers, snowmobiles,…It does not matter. Each former nonreader needs to read for practice, and needs to read to develop a knowledge base.  Another of my students began his reading career as an 11th grader when I bought him two books on Tu Pac.  If you are able to get your student to read another novel once courage grows, encourage the reading of a series and challenge them to try to read every book!  When a new reader reads a series, say The Hardy Boys Mysteries by Dixon, the extensive reading practice trains the brain to the flow of reading.  That training makes reading easier and the series often teaches the love of books and turns another person into a lifelong reader!  For more information on the value of reading book series, read this.

You will do just fine as your child’s reading teacher.  You two will build a new life’s foundation together.