Chapter 1 Parenting a Child Who Struggles with Reading What a complicated maze it is trying to find accurate help for our children! My nine-year-old son is having difficulty with reading. He is in the third grade at a school where they are not at all concerned with his progress. My twenty-one-year-old daughter, who is in college, is also struggling. She attended Smith College for her freshman year, took two years off, and is currently at Colorado College as a struggling sophomore. It is sad to see such bright children work so hard and feel so bad about their capabilities. They echo one another in their personal commentaries about their perceived inadequacies. They say, "I'm stupid." "How come others can do it better? Read faster?" Children who are bright, eager, and well loved may find reading difficult. Their reality contrasts with a prevalent belief: that children learn to read naturally if their parents surround them with books from an early age. Who has not been told by a physician, teacher, or friend that if you read to your children from the time they are in the crib, they will grow up to be book lovers? You expect that normal, intelligent, book-fed children will take to reading as easily as they eventually take to bicycles. Some do. Others don't. Unfortunately, only about 5 percent of children come into kindergarten having figured out reading, and 20 percent come to kindergarten knowing all their letters. By the time children leave kindergarten, about 17 percent will have significant difficulty with reading if they do not receive the right kind of teaching. The rest are likely to learn with an organized program, but how well and how easily they learn depend on what kind of program and how it is taught. Most children must be taught how to read, even though they love the books and stories the adults in their lives share with them. Reading ability is like height and weight: it is distributed on a continuum. Some people are very good at it, some people are very poor at it, and the rest are somewhere in between. In this way, reading ability is like musical ability, athletic ability, artistic talent, and mathematical ability. Reading ability, however, is not just a reflection of intelligence. Some very intelligent children have trouble reading, and some decidedly unintelligent children can read fairly well. For children who have very few other problems, reading might not "click" and spelling might be well-nigh impossible. We, the authors of this book, have bright children who experience difficulty with reading. Both of us have communicated with and worked with hundreds of other parents. We have learned that parents face unique problems as they seek help for a child who is struggling with words. When something as fundamental as reading is hard for one of your children, you may feel uncertain, anxious, confused, helpless, and--yes--angry if you cannot solve the problem easily. You begin to envision the worst. You acknowledge that this may be a challenging journey, for your child and for you, and that finding effective help may be no small task. One parent wrote this to us: I read your book Straight Talk about Reading and found myself getting angry. I was angry that I hadn't done more for my son who was still struggling with spelling. I was angry that I trusted the teacher to help with my son's spelling. But I did become convinced, after reading your book, I was on the right track having my son tested and having him tutored in the O-G [Orton-Gillingham] method. . . . Your story echoed "my son's story" almost exactly; however, I waited much longer than you to seek help for him. I believed the "developmental lag" theory I was being told by the first-grade teacher. We receive many letters from parents. As they reflect on their quest for understanding and solutions, parents often share their regret over their inability to act soHall, Susan L. is the author of 'Parenting a Struggling Reader', published 2002 under ISBN 9780767907767 and ISBN 0767907760.