They wouldn’t come into my house. Two eight-year-old boys, identical twins, stood defiantly outside my door until their parents forced them to come in. There they stood, just inside the door with their backs against the wall. They were unwilling to talk to anyone else about reading. They’d had it with reading. At school, kids teased them about having to spend part of the day in another class because they couldn’t read. They responded by fighting and were well known to the principal.
Life was great, except for reading. Intelligent, gifted athletes, they also sang and danced with the Young Canadians, the troupe that entertains at the Calgary Stampede.
The second time they came back to see me, they ran into the house to show me how well they could read. We had a contest. I had them both read at the same time to see who could say the next word in the text first. What fun! It was April and I suggested that their parents request they be given the rest of the year off from attending the resource room. They never looked back.
I met Jeff’s mother at a meeting and she told me he couldn’t read. Jeff was 34 years old and a golf pro at a prestigious golf course in the Rocky Mountains. Since I was spending the weekend at the resort, I arranged to meet him at a restaurant to talk about reading. As we conversed, Jeff took what I said and gave examples from learning to play golf. For instance, he said that if you are thinking about the mechanics of your swing when standing at the tee, you won’t ever make a good shot. He also told me that he never tells kids under twelve how to swing. He just asked them to watch him and copy what he did. He wanted them to develop the swing that they were comfortable with.
I taught Jeff how to read in about an hour that morning using just my reading book for him to practice with. For the first time in his life, Jeff read fluently. The blockages that had been built up over the years had kept him concentrated on ‘sounding out’. The Making Sense Approach allowed his mind to focus on ‘making sense’ instead.
Jeff had been diagnosed with dyslexia in grade two and had been put into the ‘medical model’ and treated differently. He said he remembered begging his mother, at the beginning of grade four, not to tell anyone about his reading so he could just be a normal kid. (Sounds like my twins!) Unfortunately, Jeff died about two years later from melanoma. How sad it was that even in his eulogy he was labelled dyslexic!
What purpose was served by labelling Jeff, and putting him through years of failure, when he still couldn’t read as an adult?
A mother came up at the end of one of my talks to parents on reading and told me, with tears in her eyes, that her 13 year old daughter had tried to commit suicide. She felt humiliated and ostracized because she couldn’t read the books her friends were reading and was failing in school.
The stigma that is felt by students who don’t read well has a life-changing effect on them. Reading DOES affect relationships.