DS was brought to us after a Parent-Teacher conference in which his teacher indicated that he had fallen clearly behind the rest of the class. DS’s parents were shocked because DS’s older brother had always been an above grade-level reader and DS had started reading earlier than his older brother. When we tested DS, we found that his basic phonics skills were excellent. He clearly knew all the letters, knew their sounds and could sound words out. His struggles all seemed to start when presented with material in context. He struggled to read even simple sentences with anything approaching rhythm and fluency; he often substituted similar looking words or had to break rhythm to laboriously sound out unknown words. With wrong words popping into, and long pauses in the middle of sentences, DS had a terrible time achieving comprehension.
When we conferred with his parents, they confirmed, that DS had been an early reader, showing all the signs of a Sight Reader. In other words, he had learned to recognize basic words as whole units, rather than as collections of separate sounds. Sight reading is particularly common among precocious kids. Usually these kids are the ones that start to read particularly early and, naturally shift from sight reading to phonics reading as the difficulty of thier books increases. Occassionally, kids like DS get stuck after their sight reading stills max out they haven’t developed phonics skills. This definitely appeared to be the case with DS.
We started DS in our Big Brains Education’s Beginning Reading program at the level of Dipthongs (double vowels) and Digraphs (th, ng). DS easily grasped the phonics but struggled with slowing down enough while reading to sound each unknown word out instead of just guessing. As the weeks passed, he slowed down, got his phonics skill fluency up, then was able to speed up and start working toward reading fluency. Now just 4 months later, he has graduated from the Beginning Reading Program and has started the Reading Program where we focus on Vocabulary and Comprehension skills. His reading is smooth and rhythmic. Making this transition from phonics material to content material will slow his progress for a couple of weeks but, his teacher reports that he is already at or above grade level. We fully expect him to be a full-grade level above grade level within 4 months and then he should continue to race ahead from there.
Director, Big Brains Education Enrichment