School is about to start, and Haroun and I are finishing our last days together. He is now reading independently, and his comprehension, fluency, and stamina are improving daily.
We have worked about 80 hours over this summer, averaging just under two hours per day through July and August. Haroun has gained between one and two grade-levels in reading skill; he is now a solid grade-3 reader.
The most startling difference is Haroun’s huge jump in verbal skills – he is noticeably more eloquent and confident when speaking. When we started together, it was hard to get more than a grunt-and-shrug out of him. Watch the 90-second video below to see him animatedly retelling a chapter from his current book. Especially watch how he has imagined the scene, creating a mental staging of the story – this is the backbone of comprehension.
Haroun is using a larger vocabulary, speaking in complete sentences, and confidently pronouncing words that he has only encountered in reading. As readers, we don’t realize how much our verbal skills are developed in our slow conversations with books.
Haroun still faces huge challenges. He is about to start high-school, yet still only reading grade-3 chapterbooks. His vocabulary, world knowledge, writing skills, critical, and analytic skills are not anywhere close to grade-9 ready. And he is far behind in math, science, and history.
It gives me hope that his family is supporting his progress. An older sister has started reading with him. Haroun’s ‘homework’ today was to get a library card, his mom is going to take him there. Many students I have worked with didn’t have this support, and they started falling back as soon as we stopped tutoring.
Perhaps Haroun’s parents were once worried that there was ‘something wrong’ with him. He had been formally diagnosed with learning disabilities, which persisted in spite of ineffective school interventions. But he just needed someone to teach him how to read. It’s obvious now that he is a bright, hard-working, normal kid.
There is no magic pill that will help a struggling reader – just daily, intensive, systematic, hard work sustained over months. Every child can become a strong reader. But it won’t get easier if you wait, and your child’s school won’t help. Get started now.