Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Why Me? Struggling Reader~ Part 2

“Mom, why did God give me dyslexia?”

A question I heard uttered through tears often after we finally had a name for my sons struggles.

My answer always came straight from my heart. 

“God has great plans for you, sweetie.  He made you just the way he wanted you, dyslexia and all.  Maybe he gave you dyslexia because he plans for you to help other people with dyslexia someday.  Maybe he gave you dyslexia because he knows how creative a dyslexics mind is and he has plans for you to use your creativity in a fantastic way.  Maybe he gave you dyslexia because he knows you are tenacious and having dyslexia will only build that inner perseverance you already have. God does not make mistakes.  He made you absolutely special and in His very own image!”

We worked hard those first few years. We’re still working hard, but we seem to be over that hump of massive confusion.  For those of you who are teaching a struggling reader I hope the knowledge that it does get easier will give you a goal to strive after.  Don’t give up, just keep plugging away.  Even if  it is the same stuff you’ve been doing for the past two years, don’t stop!

From kindergarten through 4th grade our days, weeks, months consisted of gigantic amounts of repetition. We worked on letter sounds for 2 years straight and that was it!  We had several sets of flash cards that we used.  The first set consisted of the letters with a corresponding picture.  These were the ones we used for a LONG time. (The other cards I made without pictures and we used these later when he got better at recognizing all the letters). I would show him the card and we would say the sound of that letter.  Just the sound.  Not the name.  I realized early on that trying to teach him the name and sound of the letter just confused him completely.  So, keep in mind that if your child is struggling to get the sounds, just focus on the sound of each letter, not the name.  You can always go back and teach the names of the letters after the sounds are well grounded in their minds. 

The reason why we worked on the sounds so long is that I wanted them to be automatic for him.  I didn’t want him to have to stop and think about each sound.  I wanted for him to see the letters and for the sound just to pop right out of his mouth without hesitation.  If they weren’t automatic in his mind then it would make reading that much more difficult.

When working with the letters I only introduced a few at a time.  If I gave him too many they became jumbled in his mind and it was like undoing everything he had learned so far.  It was a long process and some days I didn’t know if he would ever be able to memorize all the sounds of the alphabet, but he did.  By the end of second grade he had them down so well that he could just fly through the alphabet without any problem.  During this time I also began to introduce what Abeka calls “special sounds”  these are sounds such as, “th, cr, oo, aw, ou, str”, plus short vowel words and sight words.

Through out this time of sound memorization, I used simple worksheets that I found on line and also from phonics workbooks.  My favorites for my son were the Abeka workbooks and Explode the Code books.  I like the Abeka workbooks because they are strongly phonics based.  They teach the sounds in a manner that my son was able to grasp.  But, they teach it fast, too fast for a struggling reader.  I learned to pick and choose.  To supplement to re-use.  A clear page protector placed over workbook pages works wonders for a student who needs repetition!

etc-workbooks Explode the Code books, for us, was (and is) a wonderful supplement to what we were already learning.  Again a clear page protector allowed us to re-use these sheets over and over again until the concepts taught were locked into my son’s mind. 

Another method we used was word flash cards  I wrote all the sight words on these, words he came across in his reading, plus any other frequently used words that he needed to have in his memory bank.  We used these daily and for a while we added to these daily!

Last year my son was in fifth grade and I began to notice a huge improvement in his reading.  After years of work, most short vowel words and the sight words were stored in his memory bank.  His reading improved greatly and we used last year to cement the basic phonics he had been learning throughout the years. We began working on the four letter  long vowel words that still seemed to allude him and larger words that he came across in his reading.

This year I was happy to find a curriculum called Megawords.


It is taking us into the realm of words with multiple syllables.  I am extremely happy with this book!  Another great product from Educators Publishing Service. It is helping my son take bigger words and break them down into manageable pieces.  He is reading words, big words, words that amaze me. 


If you hung with me through this long piece, thank you!  I know it isn’t something everyone is interested in or even dealing with, but I felt it was something I needed to share.  Honestly, there were days when I think we both wanted to give it up, but with an amazing will to keep, keeping on, my son is reading with more fluency and accuracy every day.  There is hope for struggling readers.  The road isn’t easy and its uphill most of the way, but what victories my son and I have shared!  God is definitely good!  He has given my son the gift of dyslexia.  Yes, a gift!  It has shaped my son into an amazing young man with a glowing personality and a gift for seeing things like no one else can!


****The above is what worked for my son.  This may or may not work for your child.  Each student is different and has different abilities. 


  1. YOur post brought tears to my eyes. I taught in a Christian school for 12 years, 2nd grade, and ended up using Abeka phonics for my children, as well. It is wonderful!

    One gentle reminder to mothers, do not allow anyone to compare your struggling child to a chart or to another child. Every child is unique and learns at their own pace or rate...and in their own way. Pray, and if you feel God is leading you in a different direction, outside the "box of curriculum," follow Him. God will inspire you on this journey.

  2. SUCH a great post Jenn!! I am sure it will be a blessing and encouragement to many. Do not apologize for sharing what is on your heart...THAT is what is so encouraging in this blog-world...heart things matter. AND this post will matter to those who need to read it...thank you for sharing! I think your boy is so blessed to have you as his Mom! :)

    Blessings to you my friend!

  3. Awesome post. Even if only to remind us moms to persevere. When it seems that they will never "get" something (whether related to a ld or not) we have to keep at it.
    I plan to pass this on to a couple of moms I know that are struggling with different ld's. Maybe this will help them in their quest.
    I love the pic of your ds reading with the cat! I'll bet that scene gives you warm fuzzies all over! :)

  4. Very interesting. My oldest son has some learning issues. His reading was so far behind and he still is. He is a whole word reader. Phonics did NOT work with this kid. Flash cards really helped.

    He also feels frustrated with himself and asks the same question. Why did God make me this way? I gave the same answer you did. These type of children need so much encouragement as they feel they are failing us and themselves everyday.

    So glad you found something that worked for you!

  5. It can be very frustrating findin' what works for each student.

    There have been many great people who have dyslexia. Yes, it can be a gift. I'm thrilled your seein' the glass half full. What a wonderful mama ya are!

    God bless you and enjoy this beautiful day sweetie!!!

  6. You are amazing & definitely an inspiration - you see my daughter is a struggling reader - & I guess I denied it for a fair while, but I have now accepted & sought help about it. It's not that she doesn't get it, but rather she's just much behind where she "should" be. Thankfully with homeschooling we can take her back to the beginning & try & get her to reunderstand the words (crack the code so I'm told). I found encouragement in knowing that it will get better - thankyou

  7. The beauty of homeschooling! So wish that my husband would have homeschooled, I know he wouldn't have been left behind like he was in public school. He has terrible reading and writing problems. I'm sure this post will encourage many moms who might have a struggling reader.

  8. Thank you for sharing your story, Jenn. My daughter is 9 and is still not reading. Well, she's reading, but it hasn't clicked. I don't think she's dyslexic, but sometimes I wonder...

    Regardless, it's SO encouraging to hear that other homeschoolers struggle AND succeed. It gives me hope.

  9. Thank You! My son has finally been diagnosed with dyslexia. He is entering 3rd grade this year and I am seriously considering homeschooling. I'm studying curriculum and gathering info, thanks for sharing your experience!

  10. Thank you for sharing your experience. My son was diagnosed with dyslexia and I have decided to homeschool him and his brother this year. He is repeating kindergarten this year. The encouragment from your post will help me keep going in those tough times I am sure!


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