Teaching My Baby To Read

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How I realized my daughter needed glasses

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This is a hard post to write without sounding like a Tiger Mom. My daughter “Jenna” is 5-and-a-half years-old and reads at Guided Reading level D, which is roughly 1st grade. She is witty, articulate, cheerful and loves to draw. Jenna has been immersed in language since she was a baby and learned her letters and sounds by 20 months.

The thing is, my son “Bruce” was reading Harry Potter when he was five-years-old. With both kids I followed the same reading plan.

These past few months I found myself wide awake at 1 a.m. and wondering: “Am I doing something wrong? What is happening? Is this just a case of two kids being developmentally different?”

I understand about developmental difference. I taught K-4 for six years and saw it every day. Some kids learn at different rates and that’s okay.

But my “mom radar” kept telling me that something was odd and I couldn’t figure out what.  Jenna has an abundance of natural intelligence and profound reading comprehension. With Bob Books however, she was hitting a wall. Even so, she was technically reading above grade level. For me to be worried about her progress made me feel like a scary Tiger Mom. I kept pushing my worry down and it stressed me out.

Then in piano Jenna hit another wall too. Her teacher was concerned because she couldn’t tell the difference between line and space notes. She’d keep Jenna on the same boring song for three weeks in a row and not let her move on. I knew that if I wrote the letters in clear handwriting next to each note, Jenna could play the entire primer book on sight. However, her teacher was not onboard with this accommodation.

So I did three things: #1 I canceled piano lessons, #2 I started teaching Jenna piano myself, and #3 I took Jenna for a complete vision examination.

To be clear, we don’t have vision insurance and that appointment cost $250. Basically, I scheduled it on a hunch. Something is wrong … I think.

As the appointment loomed on the calendar I had a lot of self-doubt. So many mothers would be thrilled if their kindergartener was reading slightly ahead of grade level. I on the other hand, was bothered that she wasn’t extremely ahead of grade level. What type of sick person was I?

Yet I had this nagging worry that wouldn’t go away and I was willing to spend $250 to put it to rest.

As it turns out, the eye exam revealed that Jenna is farsighted, both eyes see differently, and she has extreme difficulty tracking. The verdict? She needed prescription reading glasses ASAP.

When we got the glasses the change in piano was immediate. Jenna now loves to play.

Reading has been a bit slower but Jenna’s eyes are growing stronger each day. I purchased reading focus cards to help her track. We also use the cards and glasses when we do read aloud. I want Jenna to be able to focus on the words as I read them to her. She’s probably been missing out on this important learning opportunity for years because she couldn’t properly see the print.

No wonder her auditory reading comprehension is so high!

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Another thing we are doing with renewed vigor is All About Spelling. We are on Level one Step 13. (Full disclosure, I am an AAS affiliate.)

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The beauty of All About Spelling is that it is based on the Orton-Gillingham approach. If you were to Google how best to help kids with dyslexia, the Orton-Gillingham approach is mentioned over and over again. I don’t think Jenna has dyslexia, but it’s interesting to note that if she did have some sort of processing disorder, we’re already using one of the best methods to help.

I’ve ordered the Level 1 readers that go with All About Spelling so that we can try something different than Bob Books. I love Bob Books, but Jenna is tired of them. I can see how Jenna might have developed an aversion to them since she has struggled to see the print this whole past year.

Which brings me to guilt. I have a lot of guilt that I didn’t recognize Jenna needed glasses earlier. I have guilt that I have been asking her to read each day and her eyes were hurting. When I look through her glasses I get an instant headache. I have guilt that my child was silently struggling and I didn’t understand why.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the next few months. My primary focus is making “mom school” fun and doing a little bit each day in a systematic sequential way. Right now on February 25, 2015 Jenna is reading a Guided Reading Level D. Check back with me in June and let’s see what happens!


9 Comments

  1. Welcome to the club! I went through just the same thing, only in 3rd grade. http://sandboxtosocrates.com/2013/11/04/subtle-vision-issues-can-cause-big-problems/

    Vision issues like this are really common and it takes a while to spot them. Our eye doctor told us recently that he *often* gets kids in who are 10 or so and who have never been able to see the chalkboard at school. I think the school exams are too perfunctory and many parents who don’t need glasses themselves don’t think to take their kids in to an eye doctor. We need to spread the word that everybody should take their kids in for eye exams every so often.

  2. This is like the club nobody wants to belong to…. 😉 Thank you for sharing, Jean!

  3. Jennifer says:

    Jennifer,
    I am glad you posted about this although I fully understand your qualms about sounding like a Tiger Mom (I’ve been in a similar position myself). You and I come from similar professional backgrounds; as soon as I read that your daughter was reading on a level D, I knew something was off given the background in reading I know you’ve given her. I don’t know that I would have picked up on the vision issue as soon as you have. I am very nearsighted and my husband wears glasses too…but even our optometrist recommends we have our children get a baseline evaluation around 3rd grade. That’s a long time after K!

    I find this post very interesting right now because I am reading up on Rod Everson’s On Track Reading Program (basic code taught as in Reading Reflex, advanced code taught similar to Orton Gillingham, if I understand correctly). He is a big proponent of having children’s vision checked if there are any reading issues — yes, I know, reading on level D is great for a Kindergartener…but still you had concerns so you know what I mean. You followed your gut and good for you. I think you saved your daughter years of struggle.

    This post has given me food for thought as I consider the vision aspect for some struggling readers (my professional passion). I wondered the other day why you had your daughter using those line by line tools. It makes sense now. I was wondering what you knew that I didn’t. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Thanks for the words of encouragement. They mean a lot!

  5. Brandy says:

    My husband wasn’t found to need glasses until 4th grade. While he doesn’t remember struggling in school, he clearly remembers realizing just how wonky he had been seeing things. Because of that experience, he has been adament our children’s eyes be tested every single year starting from babies. There are many eye doctors that participate in the Infant See program which tests the eyes of babies up to 12 months old for free. I have a 10 yr. old, an 8 yr. old, and a 6 yr. old who so far do not need glasses. My middle child has been found to always be very near the outside range of normal farsightedness for kids. He will likely need glasses. So far it hasn’t affected his reading abilities.

    I’m not sure what a Tiger mom is, but it sounds like we have similar backgrounds and expectations for our children so I hope I’m not being a tiger mom at times if it’s a bad thing. 😉

    We homeschool, too, and absolutely love All About Reading and Spelling. We are done with all the reading levels but still working through the spelling levels. Even though all of my children were natural and early readers, going through their reading program still had its benefits, even if we went through it fast. I highly recommend it.

    • Thank you for sharing, Brandy. A “Tiger Mom” is the code-word for a mom who is crazed about her kids’ performance. It comes from a book called “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” by Amy Chua.

  6. Laurie says:

    Same story here. Because of having late readers and a deployed husband we didn’t find out until 5th grade. Not only struggling with catching up, but also overcoming her feelings of failure because of unkind kids. It has been slow, but so thankful for finding this reading and spelling program!

  7. […] thing ever, but it also broke my heart a little bit. Two months ago we realized “Jenna” needed glasses. Now, we’re still […]

  8. […] I’ve tried, click here.) All of my methods worked with Jenna…up to a point. Then she got glasses, which made a big […]

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