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What makes you pick up a book? What makes you keep reading or stop reading?
Why was that decision made?
Creating connections to literacy is critical as we do not read in a vacuum.
Such knowledge applies to young readers, too.
My book Reversed: A Memoir tells the positive story of my son's success.
Although I talked about his failure and our pain, my mindset was not really discussed.
Children with Development Language Delay
Today, I can say Nicholas has a developmental language delay. (DLD)
Children who struggle with forming words and sentences look "slow." Thinking in language takes more time and effort, and responses are laborious. Formal testing often takes place in the domain of "language." Standardized testing reinforces "your child is not smart." Immediately, the child is seen as "behind and not likely to catch up." Low standardized test scores play into this scenario.
If our family had stayed within the school system, I could easily have fallen into the trap of believing such forecasts. Such thoughts still plague me. What if I had believed those school results?
At the end of the 1994 school year, I held little hope for his success in school. I would have said, "he is not very smart." I certainly felt despondent.
MY Life-Changing Experience
My positive experiences of teaching Nicholas in 1995 changed my world.
My connections to MINDSET came to the fore as Nicholas learned the high-frequency word "saw."
Nicholas’ Reading Teacher sent him home with two sentences to learn this complex word.
The same two sentences were provided to every child in her care.
I saw a cat climb up a tree.
I saw a man rob a bank.
Nicholas read the first words of the first sentence:
"I saw a cat."
He re-read the sentence.
"I was a cat."
He stopped again and returned to again re-read the sentence.
"I as a cat...I sa a cat."
At this point, he shook his head and handed me his paper.
Listening & Reflecting
It may have been something about how he read that sentence that concerned me. It may have been his finding a love of learning while working together, which caused me to reflect.
At this point, I had enough knowledge to know
1. My son was not dumb.
2. There was a problem here.
3. I didn't know what that problem was.
Listening, reflecting, and ruminating allowed "think" time for me.
Nicholas only read one phrase of one sentence before he gave up.
The sentence provided by the teacher was abstract.
To my knowledge, Nicholas had never seen a cat climb up a tree.
Secondly, the word "saw" carries multiple meanings.
The teacher has only provided the abstract meaning of this word in her two sentences.
Why did Nicholas stop reading?
Did he stop reading after the word "cat" because he used the concrete meaning of the word "saw" to cut?
I asked the “why” question.
I solved the problem by talking about the places we had visited, and Nicholas knew he had "looked" or “had seen” Windsor Castle, Captain Cook's maps, and a Guttenberg Bible.
Connections to Academic Literature:
It was reading Prof Brian Cambourne's academic paper "Beyond the Deficit Theory" that had me reflecting on the impact of MINDSET.
Camboune’s example from this academic paper comes from the idea of "acquisition learning."
"Learning fails to occur because of a breakdown in the process which underpins effective learning rather than a breakdown, failure or deficit in the learner."
"Students receive a faulty demonstration of how reading and writing are done or how they work."
Now I am in Growth Mindset Mode.
How quickly and easily do adults jump to conclusions on a child's ability to learn rather than putting our teaching under the microscope?
Nicholas's low-test scores from the year before did not help us, either.
Expectations of Nicholas were low.
This scenario dove me to examine the connection between "teaching" and my "mindset, particularly those who struggle the most.
My questions remain:
When teaching children to read, are we teaching reading as distinct “set of skills” to be learned, or are we connecting literacy with “how children learn?”
What’s your opinion?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lois Letchford’s dyslexia came to light at the age of 39, when she faced teaching her seven-year-old non-reading son, Nicholas. Examining her reading failure caused her to adapt and change lessons for her son. The results were dramatic. Lois qualified as a reading specialist to use her non-traditional background, multi-continental experience, and passion to assist other failing students. Her teaching and learning have equipped her with a unique skillset and perspective. As a teacher, she considers herself a “literacy problem-solver.”
Reversed: A Memoir is her first book. In this story, she details her dyslexia and the journey of her son’s dramatic failure in first grade. She tells of the twist and turns that promoted her passion and her son’s dramatic academic turn-a-round - as in 2018, he received his Ph.D.