We met Haroun over Christmas in an 11-day crash program. In the months that followed he received some excellent tutoring outside of school, enough to maintain and solidify his reading skills but not much move them forward. The blog posts from the 11 Christmas days start below. We continue Haroun’s training in the Summer training blogs, which start here:
Saturday December 20. Some teachers in Toronto’s Regent Park asked the Community Reading Project to help a severely reading-impaired child, and I have some time over Christmas to try a crash program. This is the first of a series of daily blog posts following our progress.
H. is in grade 8, perceptive, well-behaved, and struggling with reading. He has been assessed with a learning disability (our schools don’t say ‘dyslexia’), but you cannot tell from talking to him. He loves basketball and video games, his teacher says he is doing well at math.
When I first met him, we tried reading aloud from a Goosebumps book (grade-3 level), and it was hard work. The first sentence starts “I knew there was something wrong…”; he read ‘here’ instead of ‘there’ and then struggled with ‘something’. After a tortured half-page of memorized words and guessing from context, I stopped him and asked comprehension questions, he remembered some of the words (there was a balloon) but had no idea of the meaning of the text.
Yesterday was the last day of school before the Christmas holidays. Today H. starts an intense daily tutoring program with me. The intention is to push as hard as possible until school restarts in January.
We started the BLENDING program. He can’t read a list of /ah/ word like ‘FAT CAT SAT’ without errors. The critical error is drifting off the /ah/ sound, a symptom of phonological deficit or even auditory processing deficit. He misreads letters (for example ‘d’ for ‘b’) and guesses at words. When I stop him at a mistake, he struggles to see the error, which is a symptom of reading with memorized words. I expect this will all be gone after a few days of drilling.
I have asked him to slow down and focus on accuracy. I use the analogy of 2-finger typist that is trapped and cannot speed up, to improve he must first slow down and consciously, painfully learn to type with 10 fingers until he starts to pick up speed again. H. understands that.
We started reading a grade-2 chapter book together. I worried that he would find it demeaning, but he is really enjoying it. He struggles with vocabulary that a grade-8 kid should know (eg: sinister, vault), but vocabulary comes from reading and he will catch up.
We tried a Repeated Reading drill, about a half-page of Jack Stalwart text, but it didn’t go well. His speed was up and down, and a ‘learning curve’ did not emerge. We’ll do this again when he has some phonological skills.
We did some oral ‘Hamburger Essays’ – for example why is basketball better than baseball. We did a morphology drill with the word PORT, and then in our second reading session we highlighted PORT words like ‘Importantly’ in the text.
I plan on pushing him hard, but he is focused and wants to learn. I have great hope for this crash program, but expect surprises along the way.
We have documented the first 11 days of this intervention, click on the “Christmas Crash Reading – Day 2” link below to continue reading, or find the entire series in the ‘Summer of Repairing Dyslexia’ blog.