tom gillaspieTom’s guessing and skipping of words was massively holding him back at home and school. After completing Easyread he was not only performing at grade level with his reading; he was performing at the very top level!

The Problem

Moving from the UK to Australia at the start of 2011 had some obvious challenges for Tom in terms of adjusting to a new school, a different curriculum, and also a new country. Initially things seemed OK, despite the fact that he was clearly behind his twin sister Cara. The school which the children started at in Brisbane felt that Tom was about average in his class. Mum Polly however had her doubts about this. For one thing, a key difference between the educational systems in the UK and Australia was the fact that in the UK children started a year earlier, and for that reason Tom was put into Grade 1, despite being ready for Grade 2. Therefore the fact that Tom was comparing favourably with these children who were essentially an academic year behind him, seemed worrying. Nonetheless they swallowed these thoughts and tried to feel good about the fact that he was doing ‘OK’.

The family moved again in 2012 to Sydney. Instantly it was clear that there was quite a difference in terms of schooling and expectations between Sydney and Brisbane, since Tom was quickly identified as being well behind where he should be. Polly was understandably concerned. Tom was also becoming increasingly anxious about reading and nightly battles about his reading books became a common occurrence, and there were lots of tears and upset – not just from Tom but from his mother as well! He was also disengaged and easily bored by the books that were being sent home – not surprising given that the content was often aimed at a much younger child.

Before long his struggles with reading were starting to impact on other areas too, despite having always been described as ‘bright’ and ‘eloquent’ by teachers and other adults. For example, part of his homework included an online program called Mathletics. However by this point his natural ability with numbers was outstripped by his inability to read the questions. He was incapable of working independently and relied on the help of an adult to get the questions read. Any written test was a real struggle for him as well, and yet if he had the questions read out to him he could work out the answers perfectly.  He was also struggling with his weekly spellings. All in all, school was becoming a very frustrating experience for him.

Polly began to wonder if he was dyslexic, since he had started to make mistakes even with very simple words that previously he been able to read.  Pretty soon guessing was a full-fledged epidemic, and if he had read something once he could recite it from memory. His ability to do this often fooled teachers into thinking he was ‘reading’, but Polly knew this was not the case! They also noticed he had trouble following text across a page; he needed to trace the words with his finger and would often find himself getting lost at the end of a line.  Outside of school his frustration would manifest itself when he couldn’t read the science books he loved, or search for things online, or read the TV guide, or follow instructions on a new computer game! This wasn’t just about getting something done at school anymore, it was about living his life in the way he wanted to. And the ways things were going just wouldn’t do.

Polly had always gone to great efforts to ensure her children would grow up in a world of words: nightly stories from when they were babies, lots of focus on letters and phonics even before they started school, an extensive collection of bookshelves and frequent trips to the library. When Tom’s issues became more apparent, Polly tried some more specific interventions, but since he was totally uninterested in any of them, it always felt like a waste of time.

tom gillespie

The Solution

One night when Polly was at the end of her tether, her husband decided to google ‘bright child who can’t read’ and Easyread popped up! They liked the description of the program; David Morgan sounded like he really knew what he was talking about and many of the symptoms described seemed to fit with Tom’s experience perfectly. The parent reviews were a good source of understanding too, and they found the money back guarantee to be incredibly reassuring. They tried the trial lesson and the characters seemed to really appeal to Tom – which was in itself a huge breakthrough! So they threw caution to the laptop and decided to give it a whirl.

One thing was clear right away, and that was that the rewards program was excellent. It really worked in keeping Tom motivated to keep going. Furthermore, from Polly’s perspective the online and telephone support was prompt, valuable and steadfast from day one. The fifteen minute lesson maximum made it really manageable for both Tom and Polly as fitting it around other homework and after-school activities was a doddle.

In fact it didn’t really feel as if they were involved in anything that groundbreaking, simply because it was so simple and accessible, and because Tom felt so positively towards it. However, as the months went by and the results started to pour in, Polly realised they had unsuspectingly been paving the way for some incredible life changes…

The Result

In the early stages undoubtedly his attitude was the most significant change. Tom could still sometimes get frustrated and his spelling remained a challenge even after he finished the program, but he no longer seemed so fearful and stressed about reading. He voluntarily read signs, newspaper headings etc. In fact, Polly can recall one evening not too long ago when he read aloud a two page letter from his granny back in England, and needed help with only a handful of words. “I actually cried!” Polly recalled, “I can’t explain what a relief it was to actually see that we had finally ‘cracked it’!”

And that was just the beginning…

At the end of June  2012, pre-Easyread, Tom’s reading was below the expected grade level and he was rated as having a ‘basic’ achievement in reading, writing and English overall. Six months later at the end of December 2012, midway through the Easyread program, his reading was assessed as being ‘high’ and his writing ‘sound’. English overall was also assessed as ‘high’.

Then in December of this year, post Easyread, Tom’s overall assessment for English was ‘high’ and his reading graded as ‘outstanding’ (the top ranking mark) by his teacher. Only 15% of students in his year were given this rating for reading. Polly and the whole family were both amazed and delighted!

Tom’s results with Easyread have been better than the family ever could have hoped for, and there is no gift they would rather have had than a happy, book-loving and thriving son this Christmas!