I've heard Tommy's story over and over again. However, the names were different. Tommy's story doesn't just happen at private schools, it happens at public schools and charter schools as well.
Tommy's story starts when Tommy is in Kindergarten. Teachers who haven't been taught phonics, often make the mistake of thinking a student who is struggling with the alphabet will outgrow the struggle! The student will outgrow the struggle only when they are taught explicit phonics.
Tommy is now in 4th grade. His dad is a doctor and his mom is a nurse. He goes to a private school. When he was in kindergarten he struggled with knowing the sounds of the alphabet. There were always a few that he couldn't remember or got backwards when writing. Because his dad was on the board, the teacher passed him to 1st grade.
Like most schools, his class had a basal for reading practice. Tommy has been in the bottom reading group since he was in 1st grade. There were 5 other students in this group. This group was directed by a classroom volunteer.
When Tommy was in the third grade, he was still in the bottom reading group. The books the volunteer used were books designed for remediation. They were smaller in size, had bigger print and very few words on a page. However, these books were very predictable, and very boring.
Tommy came home crying that he hated reading. When asked why, he would say because he was never going to get out of the bottom reading group. He even started saying how stupid he was. On very bad days, Tommy would say he was going to quit school as soon as he could.
According to Tommy's teachers, he did okay. They kept saying that he would get it. They said, "Just give it time." "After all," one teacher stated, "he is a boy and they take longer to learn to read." Tommy went to 2nd grade as a struggling reader. His 2nd grade teacher passed Tommy to 3rd grade.
His parents kept waiting for him to "get the code" so he could read. Tommy started hating school. When asked what his favorite subject was he said, "Art." When asked why, he said, "Because I don't have to read anything."
Now that Tommy's in the fourth grade, what should his parents do? The best thing his parents could do is to find a qualified tutor or educational therapist with Orton-Gillingham training. This is the only thing that will provide Tommy the skills he will need to improve his reading.
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