By Amy Sessler Powell | Apr 29, 2014

I was never the parent bragging about my three-year-old reading chapter books. I was not the parent talking about my children being bored in school.

When I heard this talk, I wondered. Could a child really read and understand chapter books at age three? It was so far from my own experience.

One of my children had the same learning input as his triplet brothers, but was developing at a completely different pace. It wasn’t pretty or fun. It was gradual and slow and required patience from all of us, but mostly from him. For years, I had to help him with directions on worksheets so that he didn’t fall behind in other subjects. I don’t think he reached full fluency until fifth grade.

When your child does not read on schedule—and the schedule seems to get earlier and earlier—you enter a strange world. First you need to figure out why your child’s reading is delayed, no small task. Then, you need to figure out what to do about it.

At the same time, you need to find ways for your child’s interest to stay keen. I think this final issue became most clear to me the day Alex returned from a tutoring session with my late mother, a retired reading teacher. When I asked him what he had done, he replied, “We just read a really boring story about Rocky the Rocket.”

Alex’s reading comprehension was age appropriate, but his decoding skills were delayed. It’s easy for a child with any mix of reading disabilities to lose interest through the struggle, even more so if he is forced into boring content more appropriate for a younger child.

So, what should be done?

First, keep reading aloud together to continue to make reading enjoyable and to build comprehension. Find what interests your child and don’t worry about being too highbrow. A comic book, sports magazine, newspaper, blog post—most anything with words, but not too many, is a good place to start. The child needs constant reminders that reading is worth the struggle and should not be overwhelmed by something beyond his reach.

When your child has a book report or cannot get through a textbook without assistance, consider audiobooks. Alex had a wonderful fourth-grade teacher who said the last thing we want to do is diminish his love of a good story during this struggle.

And shut out all the braggarts. They might really be the parent of mini reading prodigies or they might just be blowing hot air. A friend recently bragged to me that his eight-year-old enjoyed The Hobbit and asked if I could I recommend something for her to read next. It turns out he meant that he had read her The Hobbit, aloud, doing different voices for each character and explaining the books deeper themes as they went along.

It’s a wonderful and valuable thing to do and should be done. But, his child wasn’t quite reading The Hobbit or doing anything that I could not do with my own delayed reader.

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