Struggling Readers

The article I share with you today is about how some children think and process differently and thus causing them to be able to read at different ages. I hope this article will help give you confidence that your child will eventually “get” it and not to be frustrated or exasperated in the time being.

Until next time, God bless,

Michele ºÜº


From Barking to Fluency

Helping You Focus While Your Struggling Reader Figures It Out

By Kathy Reynolds

Book in hand, 12-year-old Brent barked1 nonstop throughout the reading. His frustration mounted, he fumbled, and I felt awkward. My teacher-ingrained confidence trusted that my young sons would fare far better than this young man was faring. Homeschooling? Scary stuff!

Uh-oh, my inflated ego was showing.

Later, having been humbled through our own struggles, I empathized with Brent and what numerous other homeschoolers had experienced. I wish I had known more about the process my later-age readers were going through.

My firstborn, Josiah, read early and easily. If one of my two middle sons had been first in line, I’d have thought I failed, miserably.

  • A good teacher is not noted by how early a child masters important skills.
  • All kids don’t read and write fluently by second grade.
  • The reading process varies, sometimes taking years.
  • Poor readers in elementary school could end up as thriving bibliophiles in high school.

Reading Can Wait

Parenting is a challenge. James 1:4 reminds us that patience produces maturity (or perfection) with perpetual results. Better Late Than Early authors, Raymond and Dorothy Moore, share many unconventional success stories through their research and publications. Their conclusion is significant: “. . . We analyzed over 8,000 studies of children’s senses, brain, cognition, socialization, etc., and are certain that no replicable evidence exists for rushing children into formal study at home or school before 8 or 10.”2

I was eager, yet sometimes frazzled, as our homeschool adventures evolved. Gideon and Ben were ages 11 and 10 when reading finally clicked, so that’s a five/six-year wait and commitment to reading readiness activities compared to their older brother, who was fluent at 5.

We don’t just wait for their brains to get ready, though. In Different Learners, Jane Healy, Ph.D. advises that we prepare the brains of late-bloomers by providing the right experiences, and get this: she proposes that they may be smarter in the long run.3 She cites a study published in 2006: “. . . Children who ended up with the superior intellectual abilities were the ones whose brains took longest to mature—as much as four years longer—possibly because the extra time helped them develop richer neural networks.”4 Was this the case for Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, or Leonardo da Vinci, who were noted for their learning glitches?5

Attitude Is Prime

Many discouraged late-bloomers think of themselves as stupid. Children need success—not failure, which can result in being labeled as some kind of failure. Thankfully, with homeschooling, my sons were spared those disabling tags and accompanying ridicule, yet there were instances in Sunday School, with neighbor kids, and with some well-intentioned adults that we had to be wary of.

I believed that my sons would become young men of character, great readers, and independent thinkers (they did!)—so my actions had to show it. It’s not about how quickly they get it or the number of books they read or how high they score on testing day. It’s about meeting children face to face, loving them with the love of Christ in us, being an example of His grace and goodness, and enjoying life and learning together. Had I realized some things earlier, my different learners would have figured things out with a healthier can-do mindset, with less pushing and fretting, and with more rejoicing and admiration for the mega-way God wired them.

Right Is Bright

In her consultation practice, Dianne Craft finds that 80% of the struggling learners she sees are right-brain dominant.6 At 14, Jeremie asked me if I thought in pictures. “Huh?” It was a Twilight Zone moment. As a visual-spatial learner,7 when he reads he sees pictures in his mind. “Don’t you focus on and say the words to yourself?” I asked. Nope—he visualizes and then stores it in his memory. Why didn’t I know this before?

Aha!” That’s what I said while reading Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World.8 I now understood the tears and misunderstandings we had experienced. It’s no wonder that reading aloud is frustrating: they see words, make the connection to turn them into pictures, and then must verbalize them.9 But hey, these same kids will likely become great silent readers! Just think—he who easily visualizes comprehends best.10 As a teenager, I remember devouring difficult books with no comprehension; I read every word, but was I reading?

In college my husband and I took the same history class. My left-brained self attended every lecture, studied and re-read every chapter in the book, and took copious notes, while my husband just sat through the lecture—we both got a B. His and my sons’ method of figuring out difficult problems in their heads astounds me; their memories are the notepads. Do right-brainers have an advantage?

Phonics Plus Mnemonics

Eventually most right-brained children do learn to read by around third grade, probably with the help of an expanding sight vocabulary.11 The more right-brained a child is, the less progress you’ll likely see with your phonics program. For us, phonics wasn’t enough. We added a visual-kinesthetic approach to our routine. Looking at color-coded cards and gazing upward while visualizing, Ben clapped the rhythm with me while spelling words aloud. It appeared that dictation and copywork—Charlotte Mason style, plus memorizing rhymes and Scripture, reinforced the reading process and advanced their progress. Games like those found in Peggy Kaye’s Games for Reading added an element of fun too.12

Rule Out Dyslexia

According to Dr. Moore, dyslexia exists in brain-damaged children, and we should not attach the dyslexic label to a child simply because his physiology is not mature enough to tackle the complexity of reading at the moment.13 The subtle dyslexic tendencies my sons displayed were not an issue after I read John Holt’s interesting perspective about dyslexia in his book Teach Your Own.14 Prayerfully seeking knowledge about human biology, nutritional science, and learning styles is important, and sometimes professional help and testing is warranted. Become the expert.

Take heart and change your focus. Consider that your child is not delayed or disabled—God’s design is that we don’t all learn in the same ways or on the same schedule. Thank God, and revel in who your child is.

I have set the Lord always before me: because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope” (Psalm 16: 8–9).

Encourage Independent Interests

Inspire kids to explore their fascinations and fine-tune their pursuits. If your focus is on areas your child is enthusiastic about, reading won’t be as big of an issue. You should read aloud, exposing your child to the wonders of language, but set a five-minute oral limit for your child. Our sons craved books about facts, science, action, oddities, biographies—and those that struck the funny bone. Enjoy growing your home library with the use of resources such as Who Should We Then Read.15

Success! Our sons eventually figured it out while I focused on character with one main academic goal: to give them the tools necessary for independent learning. Those baffling, barking days are over and we’ve been blessed to homeschool, which is not scary and one of my favorite activities!

Kathy homeschooled her four sons for twenty-three years—the youngest is a 2012 homeschooling graduate. All are excellent readers, lovers of life and learning, and independent-thinking entrepreneur types like their dad. Kathy is a freelance writer and newly re-licensed RN with interests in holistic natural health, raw food preparation, book collecting and encouraging others. Visit Kathy at her blogs: and


1. Known as barking at print: sounding out the words, without expression or meaning.


3. Jane M. Healy, Ph.D., Different Learners, Simon & Schuster, 2011, pg. 220.

4. Ibid., pg. 221.

5. Jeffrey Freed, M.A.T., and Laurie Parsons, Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World, Simon & Schuster Inc., 1997, pg. 31.

6. Excellent site to help with visual processing and a variety of learning problems.


8. Jeffrey Freed, M.A.T., and Laurie Parsons, Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World, Simon & Schuster, 1997.

9. Ibid., pg. 104.

10. Ibid., pg. 113.

11. Ibid., pg. 106.

12. Peggy Kaye, Games for Reading, Pantheon Books, 1984,

13. Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore, The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook, Thomas Nelson Inc., 1994, pg. 102.

14. John Holt, Teach Your Own, Da Capo Press, 2003.

15. Jan Bloom, Who Should We Then Read, Booksbloom, 2001.

Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the October 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at or read it on the go and download the free apps at to read the magazine on your mobile devices

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