Monday, September 1, 2008

Learning to Read - Auditory Readers vs. Sight Readers

In the past eighteen hours I have been both extremely enamored with my husband of nine years, and extremely frustrated with him. Such is the nature of marriage.

First, the good part. Last night I was telling him what my research uncovered about Sarah Palin's life. While I couldn't personally leave a four-month-old baby to run for Vice President, I think she is in many ways a remarkable woman. As a fellow woman, I am proud of her. I think there are many different ways a woman can be remarkable, whether she stays at home, or pursues a career.

My husband added that he thinks staying home with children is the hardest job anyone could have, and that in many ways it is far easier to excel as a Vice President, than it is as an at-home mother. No.....I'm not kidding you. My amazing husband actually said those very words! He really gets it! I have never loved him more than I did at that moment.

His love language is not affirming words, but mine is. He kisses me every time he leaves or enters the house, and is always ready for a cuddle, or for special time together. Those are his ways of receiving and showing love. Physical touch happens to be my secondary love language, so thank goodness we at least share one of these all-important languages. The fact that he doesn't use words to affirm me isn't really a problem, because I have God to affirm me. Nevertheless, it is nice when words like this spill out of him. I didn't see it so much as an affirmation of my mothering, than I did as affirmation of my decision to mother full-time.

Now for the bad part. It involves Don's attitude when he listens to Daniel read. It makes me feel so frustrated and angry, and so sympathetic toward Daniel. I discourage Don from reading with Daniel, because it always ends up an ugly scene.

Daniel is an auditory reader. That means he relies on auditory cuing systems when he reads text. He can sound words out very well, but he doesn't choose to, readily. It is a last resort for him. Auditory learners use syntactical and semantics clues, and the way language flows and sounds, to try to predict as they read. It is very frustrating to sit with an early auditory reader, due to all the guessing that goes on. Understandably, the adult or tutor feels like the child is just being lazy, but that's not exactly true. They are just using what makes sense to them, in terms of learning style.

Sight words, which are high-frequency words that can't really be sounded out (what, where, said, should, could, etc.) take longer for the auditory reader to learn in isolation (like on a flashcard), but they often read them accurately in text, because they use the natural flow of language as their main cue. Your child WILL definitely bring home a list of sight words to learn, probably in kindergarten through third grade. Be patient with your auditory learner. It will take time, and it may be puzzling that they know them while reading, but not necessarily on the flashcards. It is important to work on it, since they eventually have to spell them accurately as well. Chanting the spelling of them is the best method for the auditory learner. When they need to recall the word, they will hear it spelled in their head.

I don't like to see kids labeled as good readers or poor readers, because often it's more a matter of them being good at different aspects of reading. Auditory readers are always looking for meaning as they read. They often have very good reading comprehension, impressive speaking vocabularies, but can be poor spellers, because that too, they do by sound, and not by sight. Slowly, as they are learning to read, they will realize and accept that some words simply must be sounded out. They will start doing it on their own, without us needing to nag. I would say auditory readers definitely need more practice, at least in the beginning, to achieve proficiency. This doesn't mean, in my opinion, that they are poor readers.

Auditory readers don't tend to do well in traditional classrooms in which the teacher conducts old-fashioned reading groups. They don't find it easy to track text, especially when another person is reading. They may not be able to keep up, and will feel stupid when it's their turn to read. Also, they will frustrate other students, because they make take longer due to all the guessing. The teacher may nag them repeatedly to sound out, rather than guess.

I think reading groups are more valuable if they group students by learning style, rather than by other means. Also, veteran teachers are better for the auditory reader. They are more proficient at attending to learning styles. Sometimes it can take a good six to ten years of teaching before one really begins to see students as individuals.

Sight readers (visual learners) do very well at decoding (sounding out) words, recognizing sight words within text and in isolation, and at quickly learning spelling patterns and vowel combinations. They are usually excellent spellers. They often take longer to acquire fluency, because as new readers they are concentrating more on the words than on the meaning. Sometimes they can deceive you by merely "word calling", rather than actual reading. If reading is defined as communication (I think it is), than word calling is not what we're after. One has to be able to acquire meaning from text, to be truly called a reader. Always have your visual reader summarize text for you, to make sure they are reading for meaning.

My husband sees Timothy as a good reader, and Daniel as a poor reader. I find it very frustrating, and while I don't like to discourage him from reading with Daniel, I really think the situation is a can of worms right now.

Timothy happens to be extremely bright, mostly visually and in terms of memory, and that is frustrating enough for Daniel, who is twenty-one months older. It's not easy to grow up with a very bright younger sibling. I happen to think Daniel has vast general knowledge, and is very smart. He is reading above grade level, just not above his brother's level. It will take longer for others to recognize his unique gifts. My dad, as well, sees Timothy as smarter, and as easier to deal with.

I guess I'm always for the underdog. They tug at my heart more.

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