Why Won't My Student Read?

Have you ever had a student that seemed bright, but just refused to read or made silly mistakes when he or she read?  That was my son.

Don't Compare Your Children

On the one hand I had my daughter. My daughter began reading about halfway through kindergarten and quickly progressed from not reading to reading chapter books.  The kid will still lay in bed and read all day.  Until middle school, I never really had to help her with any school work.

On the other hand, my son would read - but only if you read to him.  This continued on from kindergarten through second grade.  At one point he was screaming for about four hours instead of reading 10 minutes.  (I am NOT exaggerating.  Seriously.  HOURS.)  I tried everything - reading with him, offering rewards, etc.  Nothing worked.  He would always catch up enough that I didn't feel he should be retained, but every year I could just see him slipping.  I really worried that he would never like school.

The Struggle Continued

During his third grade year I began teaching at his school.  His teacher spoke with me frequently and assured me that he wasn't lazy - there were times he just didn't get it.  The boy did every after school reading program I could stick him in, even putting him on the reading programs in my room.  Again we talked about retention - but the child was doing 5th grade math in 3rd grade.  When his state test scores came back, he missed being on grade level in reading by one point  - and his math score was one point higher.  I knew at that point there was a problem.

During the summer I tried reading with him.  Just getting him to agree to read took an act of God. Once we began reading, he would only make it a few words.  We found a choose your own adventure book about World War II.  He was very interested in it, and I noticed that he didn't seem to have as much trouble with it.  I noticed that the book was written in a larger font with a bigger space between the lines. How was he reading this harder book with few problems when he would stumble on easier books?

Answers at Last!

I decided to use the power of Google.  I typed in, "Why does my child skip lines when he reads?"  Google took me to this site.

I found the self-assessment for vision issues, and a light turned on.  Honestly, my son could have been a poster child for vision problems! I knew in my gut that I had found the problem.  I was so relieved.

My A-ha Moment

Then I got angry.  I have more than twenty years experience teaching, and there are two other teachers in my family.  Why didn't we know about this?  Where was the teacher training on vision problems?

When we finally found a vision therapist, he informed us that it is estimated that more than half of  incarcerated juveniles have an undiagnosed vision problem.  Wow.  WOW.  Imagine how many students are slipping through the cracks because no one realizes that they cannot see.

Then I found a list of signs of a possible vision problem:
1.  Counting pages before beginning reading.
2.  Covering an eye with hair.
3.  Laying head on the desk and looking sideways at reading passage.
4.  Resting head on a palm - with the palm covering an eye.
5.  Rubbing eyes frequently while reading.
6.  Complaining eyes hurt.
7.  Avoids "close" work, even if it is easy.
8.  Seems to daydream.
9.  Starts strong but gives up easily.
10.  Skips or replaces easy words.
11.  Loses place while reading.
12.  Has had a vision test but has 20/20 vision, yet still seems to have problem reading.

Many students came to mind.

Spreading the Word

My son is still going through therapy.  He is finally making a lot of progress.  When we started, he truly could only read about four words before losing his place.  Now he can go about four pages.

I want to help other children to avoid the heartache my son has gone through.  There are a number of vision issues that are not detected in a common vision test.  I will focus on a different vision each week.

In the meantime, try these websites for more information:

Wichita Vision Development Center

Vision & Learning Center of Northcentral PA

Eye on Learning

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