Guesser, Memoriser or Reader, Which One is Your Child?

I always ask my students if they are reading a book at home, if they aren’t, or if the book they have is not suitable for their reading ability, I will send home a book to read for their homework. So I asked my grade five student if he had a reading book from school. ‘ Yes’, he replied, ‘I can read it for you if you like?’. ‘Fantastic’, I replied, waiting to see him get it out of his bag. No, instead he sat there and recited his whole book word for word without the book. Then sat proudly looking at me for my response. Now its very tricky what to do at this point. This child is obviously still confused about what and how to go about reading. I asked him how he knew what the words were when he first read it, and he said, and adult in his life had sat with him over several sessions and helped him until he could ‘read’ it. ‘It was tricky at first, but now I can read it’, he told me. Now I have a good relationship with this child developed over the course of time he has been coming to see me. I can speak a little more clearly to him than perhaps I could to a child who is just beginning with me, and who, I have to be much more mindful of destroying fragile self esteem. So we were able to discuss the difference between reading and memorising.

The thing is, this child will go back into class and pull out his book, and ‘read’ it to an EA, teacher or parent helper, and they will most probably not be able to tell that my very clever young friend has memorised his book. Most probably they will not pick it up. They will not see that this boy is confused about reading in general. Some programs actually encourage the practice of memorising. A child will have to keep a book for the week until they can, ‘read aka memorise’ it word for word. This is common practice especially in so called balanced literacy programs such as LLI. This is NOT READING, and the child can only sustain it for so long before he cannot memorise any more. By then, this habit is so entrenched that it takes a long time to unteach it and the child has to deal with the fact that all this time he has not actually been reading. What a waste of a child’s learning. So I say again, question, question, question, what program your child is working on for literacy, and if you have even the slightest suspicion that he is guessing or memorising, get help now!

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