My child seemed to be on track. I thought he was doing well for one of the youngest in his class by starting first grade at only five-years-old. He was sounding out words better than my older son had at his age. He was getting most of his spelling words right. I thought I had a mini genius on my hands. Until the teacher called. He was failing at sight words. He was trying to sound them out instead of knowing them by "sight." I heard the words, "It's probably not a surprise. Most parents know when their child is low. Low? But I was just thinking how smart my kid was. He was getting all his spelling words right after one practice. I'm a librarian. My kid should know how to read. I can't have a low kid. "Mmm hmm," I agreed on the phone with the teacher. He was only reading at a kindergarten level A according to "the test". We may have slacked on reading a little this summer, but he WAS reading. He did just get out of kindergarten.
So I looked up information to find out if sight words are the most important part of learning to read and if my child would remain at an A level forever and be held back as he watched his friends pass him by and I wondered if I should have held him back a year before he started kindergarten. Most of what I read agreed that sight words are important (darn), although I did find some schools that did not use them.
I was determined to prove that my child was not an idiot. So I bought a pack of 50 sight word flash cards and made him go over each of the fifty words every night. We started reading two or more basic readers every day and repeated them the next day if he missed a word. He was starting to get them. We almost had all the cards finished in the pack. He was still sounding out some of the sight words, and he still laughed at the word "but", and so I was still worried he was not going to catch up to his peers. The teacher said sight words could not be sounded out, yet he seemed to learn them better when he did so I didn't see the problem in it and let him do so when practicing, although I get that you are supposed to be reading them quickly. He eventually did know them after SOUNDING THEM OUT.
Then we had parent teacher conferences. I was expecting to feel even worse about my failure of a child and my failed parenting. But it turns out I had a miracle child. In just two months he suddenly went from level A to level D. The teacher said most kids take a year to grow that much. His Lexile level showed him at the higher end of first grade. He started reading signs while driving in the car and he whipped through his beginning readers on the first try. He gets mad at himself when he doesn't know a word and he tries to sound out everything even when his older brother laughs at his mispronunciations. He was above average in his readings scores. And now he reads things I don't want him to see.
I credit his teacher, even though she at first thought he was low, for teaching him to sound out words so well and I credit myself and my husband for working with him every night so he could catch up to his classmates. But I think he just wasn't ready He didn't have to be reading a book on his own at age five. Now he is one of the best readers in his class. Once someone told me I would never work in a school. I proved them wrong and more. And I will prove anyone wrong about my kids, even if we are up past bedtime learning sight words.
Filed under: Bad Mom Tips