We talk a lot about the importance of reading tuition in the early years of a child, but what about those children who didn’t benefit from that early intervention and their delayed reading skills become apparent as they enter middle or even high school?
What happens to them?
If a student manages to progress through primary and early secondary school but has delayed reading skills, then the predicament is likely to be one of unnecessary and delayed academic progress.
The good news is that students with a variety of reading difficulties can be taught to read successfully. In most cases the solution is quite simple for a specialist reading teacher, because many students with reading difficulties have ‘acquired reading difficulties’. This suggests that their difficulties in becoming fluent readers have likely been caused by poor teaching methods rather than by any inherent issues.
This is not to be critical of the teachers, but of the teaching methods they, themselves are taught. To cut through the issues quickly and definitively, you will need to seek out specialist support.
For more information on this subject read our previous blog, “Why the Australian education system is failing your child, and what you can do to help.”
So, is it possible that children may have ‘gotten by’ in primary school with limited reading ability and the problem only emerges as they become more reliant on having to read and comprehend in middle / high school?
In our experience this can absolutely be the case – most people can ‘read’ around 2500 words using recall and memory and little else. A child with a strong visual memory and good recall can ‘get by’ up to late primary and even into high school. Frequently they will be clever enough to avoid being identified as a delayed reader with difficulties and while theircomprehension abilities may need addressing, they often progress through school without receiving support or without a clear identification of their difficulties – often even making it to university and beyond.
Quite a few children make it through all stages of school life and are able to evolve strategies that mask their real difficulties with reading. This is not to suggest they don’t have problems, they do, but they manage to develop strategies to work around them. Tragically, some children who are unable to develop such coping techniques will find school an unproductive and even stressful experience.
The unfortunate result is that many of these children avoid heading towards careers that might require a lot of reading, whereas they may have excelled with a little expert tuition.
Is it ever too late to teach reading?
The short answer to this question is no – it is never too late. In fact, this story illustrates the point perfectly…
Some years ago, an editor from a well-known fashion magazine presented with reading difficulties. This mature age person was an intelligent individual with a remarkably well-developed visual memory and had been able to avoid the humiliation and embarrassment that might have occurred through his lack of reading skills. He came to us at I Can Read, because he felt embarrassed when he realised that he couldn’t read words contained in legal texts as he had returned to university to take on a new degree. It wasn’t long before the veil had lifted for him and the simple joy of being able to read confidently had an incredibly positive impact on his life and career.
How can the gap be closed at this later stage?
We firmly believe, and can attest through results, that anyone at any age (over 4 years old) when taught properly will learn to read fluently. At I Can Read, we have worked with over 300,000 students over the past twenty years and while most learned to read quite as expected, even those who had grown up with an ‘acquired reading difficulty’ managed to read fluently after our learning programmes.
This does not necessarily mean that such individuals gained a passion for reading. Some never really enjoyed it, but certainly appreciated the confidence and opportunities their literacy skills afforded them.
Yet many others do develop a passion for reading and for literacy in general, which gives us a great sense of fulfilment. Surely there is little more magical than to escape to another world simply by turning a page and immersing yourself in a book that no one else will imagine the same way as you. We all bring our own experiences and perspectives to any book we read, which makes it such a personal pleasure.
Giving any child the opportunity to fulfil their literacy potential is truly a gift that will last them a lifetime.