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Is the “Matthew Effect” Affecting Your Child’s Desire to Read?

Does your child dislike reading? Would your child rather do chores than read a book? Does your child avoid reading whenever possible? When it’s time for reading lessons, are there tears or grumpiness involved?

Children who dislike reading are usually struggling readers. Just as nonathletic people tend to avoid exercise, struggling readers tend to avoid books and everything else related to reading.

The Downward Spiral

Reading difficulties can be caused by many factors, including vision problems, learning differences such as dyslexia, or the lack of a solid phonics base. Whatever the cause, when a child has reading problems, it sets in motion a terrible downward spiral.

Downward spiral infographic dipicting the negative Matthew effect

It makes sense: when your child dislikes reading, he doesn’t get enough practice. Without practice, he doesn’t develop automaticity, and reading becomes hard—which leads to even less practice.

The Upward Spiral

Conversely, when reading comes easily to a child, it sets in motion a wonderful upward spiral.

When reading is easy for a child, he usually likes to read – and because it’s easy for him, he reads more. As a result, he develops automaticity, reading becomes even more pleasant, and he has excellent vocabulary growth. The upward spiral continues.

Upward spiral infographic dipicting the positive Matthew effect

After several years, the gap between children who are on the “downward spiral” and children who are on the “upward spiral” can become quite large.

This Is the Matthew Effect

As it relates to reading, the Matthew effect refers to the idea that good readers read more, causing them to become even better readers. Conversely, poor readers shy away from reading, which has a negative impact on their growth in reading ability. This causes the gap between good readers and poor readers to widen.

The Matthew effect comes from a parable told by Jesus and recorded in Matthew 25:29. The idea behind the parable eventually worked its way into the maxim, “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” The term Matthew effect was first used in the scientific field to explain how, when two scientists independently do the same work, the more prominent scientist often receives the credit for work done by the lesser known scientist. Later, cognitive science researcher Keith Stanovich1 applied the term Matthew effect to reading when he observed the effect that poor reading skills can have on all areas of a student’s academic life.

Children who are good readers experience more success, and they are encouraged by that success to read more. As they become even more successful at reading, their vocabulary and comprehension grows, which often leads to greater success in all academic areas. On the other hand, readers who struggle at decoding are less likely to want to pick up a book. They get much less practice and fall behind – often way behind – their peers. They fall behind not only in reading and spelling, but also in other content areas such as history and science.

This chart shows how the gap between good readers and poor readers widens as time goes on.

Graph showing gap between good readers and poor readers caused by the Matthew Effect widens as time goes on

How to Help Your Struggling Reader

The Matthew effect has such a strong negative impact on poor readers that the sooner you can intervene, the better. There are three ways you can help your reluctant reader, starting now:

  1. Teach your child how to read using an explicit phonics method such as All About Reading. In Anna Gillingham’s words, “go as fast as you can, but as slowly as you must.”
  2. Read aloud to your child every day. Hearing good literature will help your child develop vocabulary and comprehension, even while he is learning to read on his own.
  3. Encourage reading outside of school. Help your student select books that are at the right reading level for him and contain topics that interest him.

Above all, don’t get discouraged and don’t give up. Reading affects all other academic areas, so it is important to get your child the help he needs. If your child is struggling, please know that we are here to help.

Do you have a child who avoids reading? Let us know in the comments below.

Free report - '20 Best Tips for Teaching Reading and Spelling'

1 Stanovich, Keith E. (1986). Matthew effects in reading: Some consequences of individual differences in the acquisition of literacy. Reading Research Quarterly, 22, 360-407.

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JoAnn

says:

Yes I have a 4 th grader

Cay

says:

Marie Rippel is totally on target with this article. The maxim is true, if you can get them to like reading, they just take off! Our daughter began reading at age 4, and so did our son. It has allowed us to advance them in every academic subject because their vocabulary is greater, and they can study autonomously, with less parental assistance. We begin alphabet familiarity at age 2 with our kiddos, using kinesthetic manipulables like the Teach My Toddler kits on Amazon, then switch to Progressive Phonics (free, just google it) in Kinder, then into regular textbooks in 1st grade at age 4/5. Thanks to the kinesthetic/phonics foundation, our kids are 2 years ahead of regular reading level and in all other subjects except for history. (History has some complex relational concepts that a child just can’t wrap her mind around too early in life.) I did struggle awhile getting our now-5-year-old son to pick up a book and begin reading on his own outside of lessons, and finally hit the jackpot with Batman and pirate readers from the library. (Guess it had to be a subject that he loved.) Marie Rippel is 100% right that a phonics base is critical to strong reading in the early years. And getting them to LIKE reading is also imperative.

Tiffany Lewis

says:

I love how this information is displayed. Is it okay to share this information with parents?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

We always appreciate when links to our articles are shared, Tiffany! Thank you.

However, if you wanted to print the information or share it in another way, please email us at support@allaboutlearningpress.com with details on how you wish to do so.

Sarah

says:

I am hoping our story will encourage some of you. I have two children with dyslexia. Our oldest struggles mightily with dyslexia while our youngest has a milder form of the same struggles. We have homeschooled from day one, but it wasn’t until 3rd grade that I was able to pinpoint what was going on with our oldest. He compensated in many ways that hid how badly he was struggling, until he couldn’t move forward. I spent that summer reading through The Gift of Dyslexia by Ron Davis and implementing some of the exercises. This was important because we came to realize our son wasn’t seeing punctuation at all. The light bulb moment for us was when he was able to tie the period in a sentence to the stop button on the CD player. We also began All About Reading at the start of his 3rd grade year (we did things in reverse because we didn’t know better and started All About Spelling in 2nd grade). My son’s confidence soared at the start of AAR as he was able to blow through the first level and part of the 2nd. The rest of our ride was bumpy but he graduated from AAR. Now 14 and in 9th grade we are still working through AAS. I love that AAR and AAS use levels and not grades. My son knows he is behind but our focus has always been progress not a grade level. He is ahead in math, so there’s that too! We, as a family, have always used audio books in the car, and we have listened to a wide array of stories. I still group read with all the kids and also encourage reading on their own. Graphic novels are a great way to introduce struggling readers to independent reading. It’s not just potty humor (Dogman I’m looking at you!) anymore either. There are great biographies and non-fiction options being published. Graphic novels have blown me away for many reasons. The pictures help to give visual queues and comprehension for many types of readers and as a child they up the fun content of a book. Many graphic novels were written by dyslexic authors, which should tell us something, too. After years, and I do mean years, of my oldest reading graphic novels because he could tolerate them, and he truly does love stories, I was beginning to despair that he would ever pick up a “normal” book. He is 14-1/2, and he just picked up two historical fiction books that had been sitting on our shelf. He blew through one and is currently reading the other because they are engaging and new. I could not have forced this even half a year ago. I’ve searched for every graphic novel we were okay with him reading and tried to keep options in front of him with no pressure. Oftentimes books go back to the library that he won’t touch. This is a major victory and it has been a long, slow process. He will probably never have the smooth cadence of a reader who doesn’t struggle but he continues to read, daily, and that is the victory I wanted for him more than anything. To enjoy stories for himself. We are in the throes of some of this with our youngest, who also graduated from AAR this past year. We couldn’t afford or travel to the Orton-Gillingham center that is in our area so I’ve had to do a lot of research and trial and error. I so appreciate the additional information that AAR and AAS provide. These programs gave us a big leg up on the things we were struggling with and gave me a springboard to better understand and help my kids grasp strategies to move forward. Maturity after 12 seems to play a big part in reading skills for dyslexic kids, so don’t despair! It’s a slow road but worth the work when you begin to see progress. Celebrate those small victories!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you so much for sharing your sons’ stories, Sarah! I am sure it will be very encouraging to many!

We have a blog post on Motivating Readers with Graphic Novels that includes title suggestions, although most are for younger readers. It would be great if you could add some of your son’s favorite titles to the comments of that post!

Mary Anna Coleman

says:

Thank you for sharing your story. I have been using AAR with my son but it has been a slow process, he turned 13 this year and it seems like things are starting to click. If I compare his reading level to other children his age, I can get discouraged but as a believer in Christ – our hope is in Him and we don’t know His purpose in allowing these trials in our life but we know He never wastes what we walk through! This journey is more than being “on grade” with the other kiddos at church, this is character building for my son (and for his Moma, too!) I so appreciate your story. It is great to know I am not alone on this dyslexic road with my amazingly bright but struggling boy that I am privileged to call my son!!

Murielle Vich

says:

Thank you for sharing your story. It is inspiring and reminds me that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I have a 8 years old girl who struggles with dyslexia and who desperately wish she could read… Your story gives me hope.

rajeev sharma

says:

very informative article

Donald Errol Knight

says:

Interesting and clear explanation.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Donald.

Holly Arthur

says:

My 11yo daughter did AAR4 when she was in 4th grade after testing her, she did great on the test, but had never learned any rules of reading in public school (she was in public k-3rd) and AAR4 was good for her – she few through it in just a few months. She also did AAS1-4 that year too, 5 and part of 6 last year and we are finishing up 6 now about to move to 7. Little brother did start with AAS1 so she has heard much of AAR1&2 and now 3, and she loves them and is so jealous of the games and often joins in the games …BUT!!! Books her own 6th grade reading level she thinks are boring. She doesn’t want to read them. If I read them aloud, she loves them. She can read a chapter to herself and get nothing from it. If I read it aloud she could repeat the whole thing back to me. But I want her to be independent. I don’t even know where to help her. Sometimes I have her read aloud to her little brother from her books and they seems to help her…we just don’t have the hours in the day to do that everyday. Any ideas or suggestions to get her to love reading on her own? I actually know I was in a similar boat in 3-5th grade and I pretended to love to read because everyone thought I was smart (I was really only good at math! Haha!) but at some point in 5th grade it all changed and I read too much! I always had a book in my hand and to this day I love to read. I just don’t know what to do to get it to clock on for her. I know she is a good reader for listening to her read aloud, but I also know something is missing since she does not want to nor enjoys reading books to herself. Help!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’ve received some great suggestions, Holly. I have a bit more too.

The most important thing you can do with your student now is read-read-read! Set a daily reading time for your daughter to read for 20 to 30 minutes at least five days a week. After finishing All About Reading level 4, students often need more practice to build their stamina for reading and to practice the skills they learned for decoding unfamiliar words.

Only when reading becomes so easy that it is second nature does it become truly enjoyable for a person. Before then, it is hard work and when it’s hard work there is little left for understanding what was read. The only way for reading to become that easy is to practice, practice, practice.

Try to choose books that interest her, both fiction and non-fiction. It is preferable if the books (or magazines or articles) are easy or comfortable for her, even if that means below her grade level. Our article What Happens after All About Reading? has a lot of suggestions.

Have your student keep reading aloud a little each day (10 minutes or so, with the rest of the time reading silently). You can use all of the strategies that she has learned to help him decode unfamiliar words. After she reads to you each day, make note of any difficult words and use those as a teaching lesson the next day where you walk through those syllable division rules and other decoding skills she has learned.

I had my students continue reading aloud to me for short periods into high school. I also found it helpful to have my kids read their directions to me for things like math, grammar, or other workbook-oriented work. Then I had my kids explain what they were to do in their own words. This kind of synthesis of directions helped not only with daily school work but also for understanding things like test questions. It cut down on mistakes due to misunderstanding directions (or misreading them) and helped me continue to further their vocabulary with relation to specific subjects.

When you listen to a student read aloud, you can hear what struggles she may be having with reading and then focus your teaching on those things. You may find that she is skipping small words, reading too fast, getting stuck on difficult words, or reading without expression, in a monotone way. The last isn’t just a stylistic issue; it is quite difficult to get meaning from a long passage read without expression.

Have her sometimes re-read passages she has read previously so that you can work on reading with expression too. Do a combination of “cold reads” (things she hasn’t read before) and “warm reads” (re-reading a familiar passage to work on reading with expression.)

Make and use flashcards for review (this helps quite a bit!). Put those harder words on word cards to give her additional review. Here’s a blank word card template you can use, or just use index cards for those words you want to review.

When my kids were in the upper levels of All About Spelling (especially 6 and 7), I often used the word banks for additional fluency practice and also for teaching words that they didn’t know (sometimes they had heard a word but were not sure what it meant).

We recommend continuing reading aloud to her as well. It sounds like you already have that handled well! I read to my kids throughout high school–there are so many benefits, and it helps students continue to develop language and vocabulary skills plus increase their knowledge base at a pace that might not be possible otherwise. Listening comprehension and reading comprehension are related, and there is also a relation between hearing good writing and being able to write well (hearing good writing helps with a student’s own writing even more than reading good writing does). It may seem odd to be reading aloud to a student that reads well, but it is still important. It doesn’t have to be just fiction, however. You could read history books, science, fiction, the Bible, poetry, and the best thing is likely a variety of all sorts of material over the course of a year.

Watch for words in read-alouds and in your student’s reading that may be unfamiliar, and stop to talk about words to help him know what they mean. Here’s an article on How to Build Your Child’s Vocabulary. You’ll also want to discuss unfamiliar situations to keep adding to his cultural knowledge, and so on.

I hope this helps! Please let me know if you have additional questions.

Linda

says:

Some suggestions:
Read aloud together. That way you can read most of it so she enjoys and benefits from hearing the book, and she doesn’t have to work so hard at it. Also, she will hear the words as she reads them, which should help her comprehension. You can adjust how much each of you reads as you see how she reacts. Some people insist on reading everything just right and finishing everything, so that reading becomes a chore. It is alright to stop and talk about the story, what is happening, what do you think will happen next, etc. And, you can stop before it becomes hard and come back to it later. Definitely choose an interesting book, perhaps one she already knows and likes. Reading the same book multiple times has many advantages if she would enjoy that, but not if she balks at that.
There would be absolutely nothing wrong with going back to the levels she loves and is jealous of and working through them at her pace. It could fill in gaps, be fun and build her confidence.
Keep reading wonderful books to them; it builds family bonds, keeps them learning while reading is still hard, demonstrates smooth reading with expression and so much more. It was the best part of our homeschool.
Prayers that she learns to love reading! :)

Courtney

says:

Hi,
I just wanted to follow up on the possible eye concern. You would want to see a developmental optometrist. Ophthalmologist track whether you see, but optometrists track how you see – do the letters look big or squiggly? Just something to consider!

Marlo

says:

My son was diagnosed with convergence insufficiency by an optometrist. Optometrist study the development of the eyes for 4-6 years. Not all optometrist offer vision therapy. Whereas, Ophthalmologist go to medical school for 4 years and then receive 2 years training on the eyes. My son is participating in vision therapy and has experienced much success. It has and continues to improve his quality of life! If you can, please read Jillian’s Story. It’s about a young girl and her journey through vision therapy. It is worth the time and money!

Carol

says:

I must say in just reading this post that I would be VERY CAREFUL here in your advice between an optometrist versus an ophthalmologist. An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor with additional specialty training in eye conditions, diseases, and surgery, including brain function involving vision. An optometrist is NOT a medical doctor, they have some training in eye anatomy, conditions, and obviously technical training for vision correction with glasses, contacts, etc… but please be careful with making claims that aren’t accurate. There is a huge difference between the two and both have their scope and place in eye care. An ophthalmologist has a much broader scope of training as well as much more comprehensive and in depth training in terms of the eye, eye conditions, and vision. The best place to start if you have vision concerns for a child is by seeing a pediatric ophthalmologist which is a children’s eye specialist. Children’s eyes and muscles are developing, and there are certain developmental windows where patching, etc… are critical during certain years to strengthen the muscles of the eye. I would be extremely cautious to go to an optometrist who claims a specialty in “developmental optometry.” I have had friends who have gone to such optometrists and paid a tremendous amount of precious developmental time and money for “vision therapy” that was completely ineffective and to be honest – it was quackery. They lost not only money, but significant time in their child’s development and vision.
Optometrists are very helpful but they need to stay in their lane. I would recommend seeing a pediatric ophthalmologist for any vision concerns as a place to start. Also be aware that what may seem like a vision issue (and it’s good to make sure their vision is good to rule out any obstacles there) if your child is a struggling reader, but then to recognize it may be a brain issue (like dyslexia). I have children with dyslexia who are now in college and thriving and I’m so grateful I did not waste precious time and resources on vision “treatments” when what they desperately needed was educational intervention – and the earlier it’s addressed- the better. I just want to spare any parent of making that costly mistake. Children are so amazingly resilient and capable when given the support and tools that they need like AAR and AAS.

L.L.

says:

Holly, I don’t normally read posts, much less reply to them. But something about your post caught my eye and I’d like to share my experience in case it helps you. I have a now 13 year old with a similar issue. When he read something, he could read the words well, but could not answer any questions about what he just read – even a short paragraph. But if I read to him, the comprehension and retention was incredible.
Our younger child had an eye condition for which we were regularly seeing an optometrist. I decided to make an appointment for this older one to get his eyes checked – even though the “eye exam” from the pediatrician always indicated his vision was great. (This so-called eye exam always tests them from across the room and is very limited.) During the eye exam with the actual optometrist, it was discovered that he is far sighted and he had insufficient convergence. So, his eyes had difficulty focusing on the up close words. His brain was so busy trying to decide where to focus the eyes, it couldn’t retain any information he had read. The child had never complained or expressed this problem. Since his eyes had always been that way, how could he know that wasn’t normal? Some low strength reading glasses made a HUGE difference.
We are also doing vision therapy to train the eyes to track better. His eyes have always “tracked” well during a regular exam (following the pencil without moving the head), but a machine test showed just how much his eyes jumped back and forth between words while reading a paragraph (excessive saccadic eye movements). All that to say, it may be worth considering a visit with an optometrist who is at least familiar with vision therapy to see if there are any vision issues causing the problem.
I don’t know where you live, but this is the doctor who has helped us so much. http://www.brecheenlearning.com.
There is also information on this issue and some exercises in the form of games at http://www.engagingeyes.com.

L.L.

says:

Holly,
Whatever is causing your child’s aversion to independent reading, I have prayed that God leads you in the right direction. I do know this is a frustrating place to be. I so wish I had found out sooner what my child’s problem was. If I may, I would like to say one more thing. Vision therapy is often misunderstood and attacked…it is not merely eye exercises. It is also actually training the brain as vision is 90% brainwork. Many people have seen success with it. It can indeed work if the problem is something that vision therapy can address.

Holly Arthur

says:

Thank you so much! We actually went to the optometrist (? Ophthalmologist? Now I’m not sure which!) just a few weeks ago, but I was wondering if there could be something like this going on too. I will have to see if I can find a doctor like to recommended around here!! Thank you!

Marie Stewart

says:

My grandson(just turned 7) can sound out his words and spell them, but it does not like reading. He says it is because he doesn’t know the book. So I have decided to start reading the book to him first a couple of times and then see if he will give it a try.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Marie,
When students need to sound out every word, they usually don’t have enough focus left to understand and enjoy what they are reading. This could be what he is trying to express when he means he doesn’t know the book.

Your idea to read the book to him first, so he does know it, is a great idea! You could try Buddy Reading as well.

Molly Peters

says:

My daughter struggles with reading due to not being taught the basics. I would love to get her help. She is in the 5th grade and now is the time to get it under control!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m happy to help, Molly.

We have placement tests to help you determine which level of All About Reading your daughter is ready to begin with. You will be looking for the highest level that she can read the placement test story smoothly and fluently, needing to sound out no more than a few words per page and misreading or needing help with no more than a few words total.

Note, our levels are not grade levels. Students finishing the final level (Level 4) have the phonics and word attack skills necessary to sound out high school level words. (Word attack skills include things like dividing words into syllables, making analogies to other words, sounding out the word with the accent on different word parts, recognizing affixes, etc.)

You may also find it helpful to begin All About Spelling as well. Spelling works on words from the opposite direction (encoding versus decoding) which can be very helpful for students that struggle with reading. However, you would need to do All About Reading as well, as All About Spelling doesn’t include the reading practice necessary for students to become fluent readers. You may find our Using All About Spelling with Older Students blog post helpful.

Please let me know if you have questions about placement or anything else.

Amy

says:

My 6 year older loves to listen to stories. He loves acting out what he’s heard, his vocabulary is extensive and he started talking at a very early age compared to most baby boys. He cries and shuts down when it’s time to for him to read but begs to listen to stories in audible and be read to. He did just complete vision therapy which has helped immensely and we completed the first All About Reading curriculum. Although I am finding that All About Spelling is helping now that we’ve started that program, he still is easily discouraged and frustrated. I’m shocked that a child who will listen to and comprehend the entire 12 hour audible of Swiss Family Robinson fights me when it comes to reading. Thank you for any feedback.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Amy,
It sounds like your child is really verbal and has amazing listening comprehension! That’s wonderful. It means once he has mastered the mechanics of reading, he will likely have great reading comprehension (listening comprehension and reading comprehension are closely related).

As your child neared the end of All About Reading level 1, how was he doing with the stories? Was he able to read them fluently and smoothly, needing to sound out no more than a few words per page? Maybe he is disliking reading because he is still needing to decode each word. He may benefit from working through AAR 1 again with a focus on building fluent reading. If this is the issue, please let me know so I can offer specific suggestions.

You are probably already doing this, but we recommend working on 20 minutes a day 5 days a week. Short daily lessons done consistently are far more effective than longer lessons done less often.

However, if your child grows tired or frustrated before the 20-minute mark, it is fine to end early. When my daughter was young, we usually did reading for just 15 minutes a day to be able to end before she got tired.

Buddy Reading with Your Child can be very helpful. It makes reading more social and provides the chance for children to master a story over two or three days so they can read it very successfully before moving on. That builds confidence in reading.

I’d love to hear more details about what aspects of reading are the most discouraging or frustrating for him. I may be able to provide specific tips or suggestions to help him overcome those issues and become confident and encouraged in reading.

Sue

says:

That sounds a lot like my son, who is now 38. He talked early and well, and enjoyed being read books far above his age level. But he struggled with reading. He turned out to be dyslexic and to have Irlen Syndrome, and to this day, reading is challenging and tiring for him. He prefers to get his information from podcasts and videos. He does find that reading on a tablet is easier, because he can control the amount of text on the screen at one time and can scroll it up and down. Your son is fortunate in that many more assistive devices and apps are available now than when my son was young. I wouldn’t hesitate to allow your son to use devices and apps (especially instructional apps), but also stay the course with print-based phonics instruction, to avoid overreliance on technology that is not always available, functioning or correct. Look for creative ways to make reading fun (e.g. using cloze text and rebus puzzles) and to capitalize on your son’s strengths, such as his excellent oral vocabulary (which will give him an advantage with recognizing words once his decoding skills have improved). Some other things you could try are duet reading and echo reading, where you take turns reading with him (word by word or sentence by sentence) or let him echo your reading line by line. Maybe also some dramatic reading, where you take different parts. And don’t forget “reading on the run,” where you incorporate reading instruction into your son’s everyday activities, such as reading a restaurant menu, environmental print such as road signs, instructions for crafts and games, notes left for him around the house, etc. I now work in adult literacy, and I encourage my students to read books with both text and audio, so that the audio can correct and reinforce the student’s reading. ESL Bits has some books appropriate for young readers. You could ask your son to follow the text with his finger as he listens, so you’ll know he’s using his eyes as well as his ears. Another thing to consider is that your son is still young. His issue may be partly brain maturity; boys tend to mature more slowly. I would advise gentle persistence without undue pressure or anxiety on your part, as that will likely exacerbate your son’s resistance and your own frustration. Learning to read takes more time and effort for people with learning differences, but with patience and perseverance, it will happen. Hope this helps!

Sue

says:

Amy, glad it was helpful! All the best!

Amy

says:

Wow! This is amazing information and so much help! I can’t thank you enough for this response, I will definitely stay the course!!

Libby

says:

My 14 year old son reads so slowly. It’s painful to hear him sound out words and he reads so slowly that I don’t believe he can remember much of what he read. He reads behind grade level… drastically behind. We homeschool and I read much of his material aloud to him for both our sakes. I have him read aloud to me everyday but I know it has affected his self-esteem. He would rather dig ditches than academic work. Ive order All About Reading Level 1 for my 9 year old daughter who exhibits many of the same struggles her older brother has. Would it be a bad idea to have him use it, too? I just ordered All About Spelling Level 1 to use with my son.

Christina Lance

says:

Hi Libby,
I use AAR Levels 2 and 3 with my 13, 14, and 15 year-old sons (all dyslexic). We are also using AAS Level 2 and 3. It is fun, it is just a short amount of time every day, but most of all, IT WORKS. It empowers my boys and gives them confidence. They are all capable readers now. It is NOT their favorite thing to do, and I doubt any of them will choose to sit down and read a novel for pleasure, but they are no longer embarrassed about their reading skills. They feel comfortable when called upon to read in church, they feel comfortable reading menus, or traffic instructions. They LOVE listening to books on Audible, on PlayAways from the library, or books read aloud by me. They LOVE books, they just don’t love reading them. But, because of slow and steady work with AAR and AAS, they are confident readers.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Christina, for sharing how All About Reading and All About Spelling have helped your teens can confidence in reading! It’s wonderful to hear how well they are doing!

Dana Boston

says:

I understand completely how you feel, & I’m glade to know we’re not the only ones. My son is almost 16 & we are halfway thru level 2.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Libby,
Yes, All About Reading can help your 14-year-old son become a fluent, confident reader.

You will want to use the placement tests to determine which level for him to start with. You are looking for the highest level he can read the placement test story smoothly and fluently, needing to sound out no more than a few words per page and misreading or needing help with no more than a few words total.

Marie Rippel, the author and creator of All About Reading and All About Spelling, has done a lot of tutoring with high schoolers. Here is what she recommends when working with All About Reading with teens:

– Follow the new-concept lessons in the Teacher’s Manual, which include flashcard review, “Change the Word” activities, Activity Sheets, Fluency Practice, and reading aloud to your student. Approximately every other lesson is a “new concept” lesson, and every other lesson is a “read a story” lesson.

– In the Activity Book, you can skip the activities that your students might think are too young, but some of the activities in the upper levels would be age-appropriate; you can evaluate as you go. They are there to provide fun review activities for those that would need and enjoy them. As we state in the Teacher’s Manual, the activities aren’t necessary for older learners; however, the fluency practice pages in the Activity Book will be essential for building fluent reading.

– Marie and many tutors include the Readers, too. The Level 2 readers aren’t baby-ish. Concerning the Level 1 readers, sometimes it depends on the student. We’ve talked to tutors of adults, and the adult students are so happy to be able to read a story that they are thrilled to read the Level 1 readers. They don’t mind the content. But if you are dealing with a “cool” teen, you might want to stick with the fluency practice pages and wait until you get to the Level 2 readers. We use realistic pencil drawings to appeal to the widest age range of students.

– You also don’t have to use the letter tiles if your student finds these too childish (though some older students still enjoy them). They are a scaffolding step, but older students don’t always need them. You can use underlining while writing on paper, a whiteboard, or colored markers, to show when letters work together as one phonogram. We also now have a Letter Tiles app for tablets, which often appeals to older students.

Here’s another mom’s experience using All About Reading with her 14-year-old son.

However, we recommend beginning All About Spelling level 1 with your son even as he works in All About Reading. Spelling approaches words from the opposite direction, which can help a lot with some students that struggle. In addition, since each word your son spells should be read to ensure he spelled it correctly, it will serve as additional reading practice. And if he places higher than All About Reading level 1, doing All About Spelling level 1 will review any beginning phonogram sounds and rules he may have missed.

I hope this helps, but please let me know if you have additional questions or concerns or need more help. We’re available here, by email at support@allaboutlearningpress.com, and by phone at 715-477-1976. We’re here to help as much as you need to help your son master reading and spelling!

Adewuyi Mosope

says:

My 10 year old son avoid reading and solving comprehension

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m sorry your child is avoiding reading, Adewuyi. Hopefully, you will find the ideas in this blog post helpful. Also take a look at our Signs of a Reading Problem article.

Paula

says:

I find my 10 year old son is too focussed on computer games. It’s all he seems to think about even if I take them away. He is very reluctant to spend time to read even when reading together. I try not to force him but if I don’t he will never opt to read a book. We tend to read at night before bed. One good thing I found was audio books which he does enjoy and he listens to in bed.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Audiobooks are a great way to encourage interest in books, Paula!

CARIN BOSMAN

says:

These are the most practical tips ever. Thank you

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Carin!

Amissa

says:

My 7 year old daughter loves to be read to but HATES reading herself. She will avoid it completely if she can. Since switching to All About Reading she has made improvement in abily and attitude (most days at least).

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m very pleased to hear your child is improving with All About reading, Amissa! Thank you for sharing that.

Melissa Cornelius

says:

We believe our 13yo son is dyslexic. He is working with an O/G tutor and has improved, however I am seeing some gaps. He is still guessing words and missing basic stuff. I am not sure where to place him with the reading program. I printed the placement tests, but I am still not confident it my assessment. I don’t want to discourage him by starting with Level 1. He hasn’t been tested/evaluated yet. Should I wait until the evaluation before purchasing AAR? I now for sure he needs to start with AAS Level 1. Oh, I am so overwhelmed!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Melissa,
I think you can work with All About Spelling level 1 and the tips and ideas in our Break the “Word Guessing” Habit blog post to help your son.

When students start to have success with reading, they may find they like how quick and easy it is to just “know” a word, that is reading it fluently. So they will often try to “know” words they really don’t know and will guess. Often, having a student read aloud to you daily and requiring him to not guess but to sound out words goes a long way toward breaking the word guessing habit.

And the phonograms and rules taught in All About Spelling will fill any basic gaps he may have.

However, if you do want to use All About Reading with him as well, use our placement tests and place him according to that. I would not recommend starting him on level 1 unless he has trouble with the level 2 placement test.

Melanie

says:

Hello my son is struggling with reading and is in 4th grade. We’ve started on level 1, but he still just has challenges and doesn’t want to do anything revolving reading.
I would appreciate any help!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Melanie,
I’m very happy to help you. How has it been going in All About Reading level 1? What lesson are you on? Is your son able to sound out the words without difficulties? How are the stories going? Is he gaining fluency and smoothness in his reading? In what ways is he having challenges?

You can email me at support@allaboutlearningpress.com, if you prefer to take this conversation private. Ask for Robin.

When an older student has struggled for some time, they may remain resistant to reading for a while. Until they learn enough that they start to gain skill and confidence in reading, it will still something that is preferrable to avoid. Most people will avoid things that are difficult and that they have not been successful at for years. It is understandable.

But keep up the 20 minutes a day 5 days a week work. With consistent instruction and practice, change will occur.

Do let me know exactly in what way he is challenged. I’m very interested in helping you to help your son have success with reading!

Maggie

says:

I think we are going to give all about reading a shot this year. I have only used all about spelling with my older kids, and just read books. My youngest is dyslexic and really struggling. Hoping a new program will help.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Maggie,
Please let me know if you have questions, need help with placement, or anything else.

Tanya

says:

My son is struggling with level 2 and therefore isn’t excited about when we start the lessons each day.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Tanya,
I would love to help you help your son feel more excited, or at least dread less, about his daily reading lessons. In what ways is he struggling with level 2?

He may need to go back to where he is successful with reading and then move forward more slowly so that it isn’t a struggle. However, without knowing details of his struggles, I can’t say for sure. If you prefer, you can reach me privately by email at support@allaboutlearningpress.com. Ask for Robin.

Raquel

says:

This describes my kid perfectly.

Brittney

says:

My son is not the biggest fan of reading and struggles trying to read, which is disheartening to me as a mom who absolutely loves to read and will choose to read in every free chance I get. We’re slowly working on improving and I know with patience he will get it and eventually enjoy it.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Brittney,
When reading is still a struggle, it is too hard to be enjoyed. Addressing those struggles is the best thing that can be done to help such children learn to appreciate reading.

Please let me know if you need anything or have questions.

Ashelley

says:

I had a children who dreaded to read, but little by little the more engaging and consistent we have made lessons the more he felt better at completing lessons!

Thank you for these tips!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Ashelley. I am pleased to hear that consistent work with engaging lessons has helped your son to feel better about reading. That is a first step toward becoming a confident reader!

Sherry

says:

I have seen the Matthew Effect several times in kids, just didn’t know that it had a name. So, are you saying, that even if a child sees it as complete drudgery, if they keep at it, they will start seeing an upward spiral? We are using AAR and AAS with two dyslexic kids, ages 6 and 7. Both are starting to see improvements, but we are still at the drudgery stage, especially with the 7 year old. We are also playing lots of games with “sight words “ hoping that will help with some fluency. He enjoys the games, but it is truly hard work!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sherry,
Basically, yes. Since you are addressing their reading difficulties with All About Reading, if you keep at it consistently your children will start to spiral upward.

But, it can take a while for a student that has struggled to change his or her mind about reading. For example, my son struggled greatly and he was 12 before he could read on grade level (this was before All About Reading was published). I kept him reading for 20 to 30 minutes a day at least 5 days a week even though he didn’t enjoy it. He got through a lot of books in those years, some I chose and some he chose, but he pretty much never read more than the assigned amount until he was 15. Then, suddenly, he kept reading for most of a day to finish a book he was enjoying (it was Ender’s Game). Since then he has been happy to read and will read in his free time, although he is more likely to read a book for information (like building a backyard forge for blacksmithing) than he is to read a novel.

Regarding working on sight words to build fluency. For many students that isn’t as effective as it may seem. First, it increases the likelihood that students will develop a word guessing habit as they try to know words on sight. Second, memorization is often very difficult for dyslexic students (and others). It is very hard work for them to memorize even a few words. It is often best to stick to the few words that truly need to be memorized because they are not able to be sounded out. Our Sight Words: What You Need to Know article may be useful for you.

As long as your children are able to sound the words out in All About Reading without difficulties, they are doing well. Students may need to read a word thirty times or more before they can read it fluently without having to sound it out! So, just know that some beginning readers do need a lot of practice and review. Here’s an article on How to Develop Reading Fluency that can help you understand the overall scope of achieving fluency.

Some ideas that can help:

The Change-the-Word activities are especially helpful for working on blending and paying attention to ALL sounds in a word. Change one letter at a time, starting with simple 3-sound words like: bat-sat-sit-sip-tip-top…and so on. They are also really helpful for working on consonant blends when you get to those lessons. You can play this activity more often than scheduled in AAR.

The Word Cards allow you to track what has been mastered and what still needs work. Keep word cards in daily review until your students can read them easily, without needing to sound them out. Here are some fun review ideas for word cards. The word cards will stack up as you go so just rotate through a portion for 2-3 minutes each day and then pick up in the book wherever you left off previously. And here’s a fun little video explaining what to do when the cards stack up.

The fluency practice pages can be re-used as well. You might enjoy our 16 Ways to Make Practice Sheets Fun. (And check out the comments as well, lots of fun suggestions in there!)

Students who struggle with fluency will also benefit from rereading the same story two or three days in a row to gain fluency and confidence. Buddy Reading can be very powerful in helping students who are in this stage of struggling with fluency.

Rereading the stories will help accomplish these goals:
– Increase word rate
– Improve prosody. Prosody is “expressive reading.” It involves phrasing (grouping words into meaningful phrases), emphasis, and intonation (raising pitch at the end of questions, lowering pitch at the end of sentences)
– Improve automaticity (be able to recognize most words automatically without having to sound them out each time)
Here’s more help with Overcoming Obstacles when Reading AAR Stories.

You can also do a variation of buddy reading called “echo reading.” You read a few sentences with full expression, and then your child reads the same sentences, matching your expression as close as possible. Do this for approximately five minutes a day, or whatever is a comfortable length of time for your child. Add in lots of praise when your child shows even a bit of improvement.

The “Fun with Emojis” article gives an enjoyable way to work on reading with expression too. This can be a great way to make reading fun that also sneaks in some extra practice from the fluency pages or readers. Check out Reading with Expression for this activity and others.

Sherry

says:

Thank you for your detailed response! Lots of good suggestions for us to start. We do love this program and all the support you provide.

Erin

says:

I have a fifth grader with mild dyslexia who has fallen through the cracks at school for years. I’m now homeschooling and trying to “Fix” the neglected areas and poor learned reading skills. We are incorporating lots of reading and trying to find the joy in it. I’m also using some O-G programs to help her succeed.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Erin,
We have a Dyslexia Resources page that I think you will find helpful. Please let me know if you have any questions or need help with anything!

Kristi B

says:

I have one child that loves reading, can’t get enough! He’s excelling quickly. I have another child that would do anything if it meant he didn’t have to read. If given an option on what book to read, he picks the one that will take him the shortest time. No enjoyment for him. I’m thankful for these blogs, good information!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Kristi,
Keep having your child read daily for 20 minutes or so. Set a timer so he knows when he can be done. If he picks a book he can finish faster than that, make him pick another. This may encourage him to choose longer books, as he won’t feel like he has to finish one before stopping for the day. If it is just reluctance and he doesn’t have any reading struggles, he will find reading less and less a chore as he practices it daily. In time, he may even continue to read after the timer because he is enjoying it!

Amanda

says:

Thanks for sharing this. I really do think that morning should be enjoyable for kids as much as possible.

Teresa

says:

My twin boys were definitely on a downward spiral. It was until we started using All About Reading that they started to enjoy reading. It’s been a game changer!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

This is so wonderful to hear, Teresa! We love when children spiral up and up in their read!

Abigail

says:

I am homeschooling my daughter this year after she reached the point of crying when faced with any reading tasks last year in KINDERGARTEN! We have suspected dyslexia for years due to her difficulties in learning and in preschool, as well as having Apraxia, but a kindergartener who says she HATES reading and cries when even talking about reading?! (Our pediatrician asked her how learning to read was going at her yearly checkup and she cried just being asked about it!) NO. WAY. We are trying to stop this now because no kindergartener should hate reading. We do not want this downward spiral to continue! I did not know it had a name, but the info in this post was really helpful. My daughter cried the first 3 days of AAR but no tears since then, so we are making some progress (she still says she hates reading and huffs and puffs about having to do it, but at least no tears). She still loves being read to at least, which we do every day. But reading is SO HARD for her to do herself. We are hoping AAR will be the right thing for her to see success!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Oh, your poor dear child, Abigail!

Did your daughter complete the Pre-reading level before starting AAR 1? If yes, how did she do with the Language Exploration activities in each Lesson? If not, did you go over the AAR 1 placement test before deciding to use AAR 1?

I ask because one of the most common reasons a young child comes to tears and learns to hate reading so early is because he or she does not have the foundational Reading Readiness Skills necessary for reading success. It is often assumed that knowing letters and their sounds is enough, but it isn’t always.

Phonological awareness, one of the 5 reading readiness skills, is the ability to hear and manipulate the individual sounds of language, and children that aren’t strong in phonological awareness can struggle greatly with blending sounds into words. Many children will develop phonological awareness skills on their own, but other children need to be explicitly taught how to hear and manipulate sounds.

If your child isn’t strong in this area, spend time building up her phonological awareness skills. Our Fun Ways to Develop Phonological Awareness blog post has fun downloadable activities to help with this. In addition, the Pre-reading level makes it easy to work on these skills, as it has a fun activity in every lesson planned for you. These “Language Exploration” activities slowly build in difficulty as you progress through the lessons.

Regardless if your daughter needs to build up her reading readiness skills or not, do everything you can to keep reading time fun and light! Going through the Pre-reading level, even if it is mostly review, is one way to do this. Also, while we typically recommend working on reading for 20 minutes a day, in this case feel free to drop it to just 10 to 15 minutes a day if needed. Progress will be made in the consistency of daily lessons and not in any one day anyway.

Also, play lots of games. When in doubt, check our blog! We have lots of fun games here with more coming regularly. The fluency practice sheets can be particularly trying for students, so check out our 16 Ways to Make Practice Sheets Fun blog post for lots of ideas. Basically, go out of your way to make it playful learning. Whenever you see her getting a little frustrated, go back to something easy, even repeating a favorite activity from a previous lesson, so you can end the day’s reading on a happy note.

If at any time you need more ideas or have questions or concerns, just ask. I’m very interested in helping you help your daughter learn to love reading!

Maryam

says:

My 9 year old son is developmentally delayed. He enjoys being read too and can read some 2 and 3 letter words but it takes him longer to memorize words and he sometimes doesn’t feel up to putting in the effort to read himself.
He has a speech delay and I think it would help him to read words more easily if he were taught where letter sounds come from, does this program do that?
Is there a reward system that this program uses to encourage students to read?
I appreciate your help!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Maryam,
All About Reading has proven itself successful for students with a wide variety of learning struggles.

One reward system that All About Reading employs is a progress chart and stickers to mark progress through the program. It seems simple, but a progress chart is highly motivating for students.

But more than anything, All About Reading encourages students to read by keeping the lessons short and fun. We recommend working on reading instruction for just 20 minutes a day 5 days a week. Short lessons allow students to work with high focus throughout the entire lesson, and also to not dread each lesson. In addition, each lesson contains either a fun activity or an interesting 100% decodable story. This Reading Activity Bundle contains activities from the various levels so you can see what they are like.

In addition, we have a number of sample lessons for each level available on our Resources for Teaching at Home blog post.

I’m not sure what you are asking about in regards to where letter sounds come from. If you are asking about teaching students that the soft C sound (when it says /s/) comes to us from Latin and the hard C sound (when it says /k/) is from Old English or Germanic roots, no. All About Reading does not do that. That level of knowledge is not helpful for a student just learning how to read simple words like cut and kit. That level of knowledge may be interesting, but it isn’t overly helpful for students reading on a college level either.

However, if you mean does All About Reading teach phonograms and all the sounds that each phonogram makes, then yes. That is a major focus of our programs. Students will learn by the end of All About Reading level 1 that the letter C says two sounds, /k/ and /s/. The letter E also has two sounds, O and Y have four sounds, and the other vowels have three sound each. Our blog post How to Teach Phonograms discusses phonograms, how All About Reading teaches them, and includes a link to our free Phonogram Sounds app.

All About Reading also teaches students reliable rules so students know what sounds to use to sound words out. For example, the The Kids’ Club Rule allows students to know when C will say it’s soft /s/ sound. However, All About Reading avoids unreliable rules. An example of a “rule” often taught that All About Reading avoids because it is unreliable is the When Two Vowels Go Walking rule.

Lastly, I would like you to know that we offer a one-year money-back “Go Ahead and Use It” guarantee. If you decide to order All About Reading from us and find it is not a good fit for your student, you can return it up to a year from your purchase date, even if it is used.

Please let me know if you have additional questions or need more information. We have placement tests to help you determine the correct starting level. However, considering the age of your student, if you find he is not ready for All About Reading level 1, let me know. I may be able to help you build up his foundational Reading Readiness Skills without using the Pre-reading level.

Audree

says:

Yes my child struggles to read. He has a great vocabulary and actually started using big words at a young age. He is not good at spelling. He is interested in reading and brings home numerous books from library but never reads them. He should be in 6vor 7th grade but going in 5..he is 12 ..help

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Audee,
Often older students that struggle with reading do so because they have gaps in foundational knowledge that will allow them to be successful in reading. All About Reading is specifically designed to teach without gaps and to take the struggle out of reading.

Here are a couple of blog posts you may find helpful:
The “No Gaps” Approach to Reading and Spelling
10 Tips for Reaching Your Struggling Learner
Signs of a Reading Problem

Please let me know if you have specific questions or need more information or help with placement.