Maria's story is not unlike many ESL students' stories. When I met her, she had been in the public school system for 4 years already and could not read English.


I started working with Maria when she was in the 3rd grade. She did not speak English very well even though she had been born in the United States. She had attended Head Start and kindergarten in this same school district. She was being pulled from the classroom 2 hours a day into an ESL classroom where the teacher spoke Spanish.

I volunteered for a project called "Everybody Reads." This program matched volunteers to students in the public school setting who were having difficulty reading. I would go to the school once a week and have lunch with Maria. While she ate lunch, I read to her so that she could hear the English language and hopefully absorb it.


I could see right away that if she was to become a successful reader, the approach would have to be different than what was already being done with her in the classroom. I decided to start teaching her the same way I taught my LD students and struggling learners. I used the Orton-Gillingham method. Maria couldn't say the alphabet. She couldn't recognize the written letters or their sounds.

I started reading alphabet books with her to teach her the sounds of the letters. I taught her to write the corresponding letters. This helped develop her alphabetic principal.

After about 3 months, she was able to blend letters together to make words like dog, cat, and pig. I continued teaching her with a systematic, multisensory method. She progressed through decodable books into I Can Read Books and finally into chapter books.

As we read the alphabet books, the I Can Read Books, and the chapter books, I helped her build her background knowledge by asking her questions. This also helped increase her comprehension.

At the end of 5th grade, she was reading at a 3rd grade level. She comprehended at grade level. REMEMBER, she didn't speak English at home. In fact, she was trying to teach her parents English using the worksheets that I gave her.

I met with Maria for three years, but only thirty minutes a week. For this short of time, Maria did very well. She was determined to succeed. The program stopped when she went to middle school, 6th grade. I don't know what happened to her in middle school. But if she continued to progress like she did in elementary school, then I'm sure she had minimal reading problems in the coming years.

Story Ending?

Over the years, I have ran into many of my students or their parents.  Everyone of them tells me that their child went on to graduate from high school.  Of course some of these diplomas were "special" if the student had an IEP.

Some of my past students went on to become teachers, firemen, helping with the family business and other different careers that you can imagine.  There have been a couple of students that had such severe learning disabilities that although they did not go on to college or a trade school, they did become an integral part of society and held various jobs.

What's Your Story?

Do you have a similar story to tell? If you do, click here.

For a FREE CONSULTATION about the reading problems your child is having call me at 785-845-1201 between the hours of 8AM and 9PM Central Standard Time.

New! Comments

Let me hear from you about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.
Share this page:
Enjoy this page? LINK TO IT! Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.