The twin boys who went from reading horror to total reading happiness!
Twins Daniel and James had always been similarly happy and outgoing boys. However, their struggles with reading and writing seemed to set them apart very clearly…
The first time Jill started having real concerns about her sons’ reading was during the last year of infant school. At age 6 both Daniel and James were equally reluctant to engage in reading activities of any kind. They would also routinely add words, leave words out, read words back to front and guess wildly. Their writing and spelling were very poor but Jill hoped that as they were so young, things would get better with time. Unfortunately they didn’t. In fact, things got a lot worse.
Not long after the start of junior school, Jill attended a parent-teacher meeting for Daniel. She mentioned that she had some real concerns about his writing, and so they went through his literacy workbook together. Upon looking through it, the teacher couldn’t deny that Jill was right – it may as well have been written in Russian for all the sense it made! This clearly confirmed what Jill had suspected. The teacher however, remained complacent despite the evidence. The school said they were confident that dyslexia was not a factor, and reassured Jill that a dyslexic child would be “much worse than this”. In the years to come she would look back on this as an example of just how little some teachers know about literacy difficulties, even in the current day.
Daniel’s reading was in the average range for a child his age, but was noticeably lacking in some subtle but important ways. For instance, he could read long complicated words in one go but was totally unable to break any word down into its syllables. As the years progressed, the stress he felt about reading became more pronounced too, until it reached the point when the sight of a book had him fleeing from the room in tears and slamming the door behind him.
With James there was nothing subtle about it; reading was a big problem. His reading was so slow, monotone and laborious that it was virtually impossible for him to recall anything about what he had just read most of the time. Whilst his reaction was not as extreme as his brother’s, he would still try every avoidance tactic under the sun when asked to read… “I’m thirsty”, “I’m hungry”, “I’ve got a sore throat” etc.
Something else that James had real difficulty with was his day to day memory. Pattern sets like days of the week, months of the year and telling the time were very hard for him to master and as a result, his maths remained one year behind. He just seemed unable to build on any pre-learned concepts.
Despite their assorted shortfalls with reading and writing, both James and Daniel were highly articulate and imaginative boys. James is a particularly brilliant artist, and has a great flare for telling stories. Daniel is good at maths, chess and anything that involves analytical thinking. But as time went by it became increasingly clear to Jill that her sons’ verbal skills, reasoning and knowledge were not transferring to their written work. She could see that the reason for this was rooted in their inability to identify phonemes.
After a few years, the school couldn’t deny that the boys had some clear challenges. They put extra reading and writing groups in place in an effort to support them. Over the next two years changes did occur, but they were miniscule. By the end of Year 4 Daniel was scraping the barrel of what was considered average for his year in reading and writing whilst James was a whole year behind with reading and maths. As far as the school were concerned, this translated to ‘just about managing’ rather than ‘falling behind’ and so they were adamant that a formal assessment wasn’t necessary, despite the fact that Jill had been appealing for this for over a year.
By now every time there was a homework task – reading-based or otherwise – there were tears being shed by not just the children, but everyone in the Walker household! Daniel and James’ self-esteem and confidence in their abilities was plummeting. It was clear by now that the generic strategies at home and at school just weren’t working. Jill strongly felt that she needed to launch into something that was specific to their needs. She just kept thinking “there has to be something”…
So she searched online for Internet based lessons that were specific to children with dyslexia, and weighed these against the cost of bringing in a specialist tutor. Having completed quite an extensive bout of research, Easyread was the final contender. Why? For one thing, everything on the website pretty much described Jill’s vastly different and yet equally unhappy sons. And there were some seriously appealing practical factors too; it was clearly much more affordable than a weekly private lesson each and – crucially – involved playing games on a COMPUTER (James and Daniel’s number one favourite pastime!) The fact that the system was built around a short and achievable lesson every day was comforting as well.
Straight away the support team were very candid about the level of commitment the program would involve – and Jill really valued this. When she discussed with her sons that this would involve totally going back to the drawing board in terms of their learning, and that they could be at it for up to a year, she was surprised by how maturely they reacted to this. Finally they were ready to press go…
As the days, weeks and months on Easyread passed them by, the boys continued to adore the games in the lessons, the prizes arriving through the post and most of all, the mounting feeling of quiet confidence that they could actually “do this reading thing”!
For Jill it was a delight to see this subtle feeling of self-worth happening in line with their slowly crystallising achievements. Finally they began to see that they really were as good as everyone else; they just learned in a different way.
In June of this year the Walker brothers proudly graduated from the Easyread program. A few weeks later they received their school reports. James is now at the top of the nationally expected level of attainment for reading, and Daniel has boosted his level by 1 year over a period of just 6 months. This means he is actually reading at the same level as children in the year above him at school!
Jill is ecstatic at the news. Her boys are happy; they have learned what can be achieved through hard work and commitment and they finally (and crucially) believe in themselves. So to see these kinds of colossal advances in their learning too is more than she ever could have imagined.
So what’s next for Daniel and James? Well, whilst Jill was delighted to see some definite improvement with their spelling during Easyread, they still have some way to go. But with every week that passes, she can see that they are steadily getting there one step at a time. For the first time, she is not so worried for her sons. She knows they will be OK.
“I sing the praises of Easyread to all, particularly the school. I’ve been delighted to have come across it. The telephone support has been unfailingly outstanding, empathetic, and immediate. I cannot fault it in any way. Thank you!”
Laura O’Sullivan has had the privilege of seeing James and Daniel improve throughout the course from day one in her role as a Reading Specialist for Morgan Learning. Easyread is an online course for struggling readers and spellers, especially suited for highly visual learners, dyslexics and kids with weak auditory processing.