Some kids learn to read by themselves. Others fail to learn to read properly their whole life. Brian Cambourne’s journal article “Conditions for Literacy Learning: Why Do Some Students Fail to Learn to Read? Ockham’s Razor and the Conditions of Learning” lists five reasons why otherwise completely typical students fail to learn to read.
The 5 reasons for failing to learn to read
The school is teaching them wrong
The first reason, Cambourne explains, is that children get faulty instructions on how they are supposed to read or write.
You can’t teach children anything without some sort of demonstration. You need an example or an explanation of the logic you are teaching. And if the demonstration isn’t correct, you end up giving kids the wrong information. Kids then absorb this information and potentially use it in the wrong way their whole lives.
The demonstrations are boring
The second reason Cambourne lists is boredom. Previously mentioned demonstrations can be correct, but if they don’t engage the potential learners, they are useless and not doing their jobs. This is especially true for kids with reading disabilities, who are typically very bright students, and might fall victim to boring demonstrations even faster than others.
Boring lectures happen a lot, especially with teachers who are fed up or unhappy at their jobs. We all go through different stages of our lives, teachers included, so it’s impossible to expect them to always be at the top of their game. When their lectures are not as engaging as they could be, children might space out and completely ignore them, hurting their learning development in the process.
The demonstrations are too difficult
Another off-putting factor might be the difficulty of materials. Researchers often find that the problem with kids who struggle to learn reading is psychological. Children simply do not believe that they can learn. The task of learning to read seems too daunting to them, so they don’t see the point in trying.
This is usually the result of a poor environment either at home or at school. In order to motivate kids and show them that they CAN learn to read is important to start with easy exercises and to overlearn the basics.
Simple exercises help them see that they are able to learn and build a strong foundation for future learning as well.
Start with the basics
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Child’s development is criticized
Remember that awful teacher you had? Or your mom criticizing you for getting a B instead of an A? Turns out harmful criticism is one of the main reasons for kids never learning to read.
Most adults respond poorly to criticism, let alone kids who do not have coping mechanisms developed yet. Kids who are criticized often shy away from the tasks they have to do.
Try being encouraging instead. Constructive words often get better results than negative comments.
Kids won’t take responsibility for their learning
Sometimes kids don’t want to take any responsibility for their learning and they simply stop trying. This is often a consequence of children not having enough problem-solving skills. The “modern” education often ignores these soft skills, like taking responsibility for their own actions and learning from one’s mistakes. Consequently, children suffer as they cannot see that learning is for their own good and just focus on short-term feelings of failure.
In order to improve that, teach your kid about responsibility and owning their mistakes.
Kids need to work on the basics first and more advanced stuff later. This gives them confidence and the perceived ability to learn to read. But by far the most important thing is the support system that you create in your own home and that they receive in school. You know what they say. Where there is a will, there is a way.