Sunday, February 5, 2012

My Reasons For Teaching My Child to Read

 The question "If you had only the length of an elevator ride to explain why you are teaching your child, what would you say?" was asked on a forum which does have some other parents of kids with Trisomy 21, but is mainly composed of parents of typical children who are keenly interested in all areas of early learning.

My reply is probably going to be very different than many of the parents here.  When I first started teaching my daughter, my goal was for her to be able to read at a beginning level by grade one.  She has far exceeded my expectations & taught me so much more than I have ever taught her.

When K was born with Down syndrome 4.5 years ago, several well meaning doctors & nurses told me that she would probably be very happy & love music.  They tried to be encouraging, but their expectations were very low.  It wasn't until I got home & started researching on the internet that I learned about a very small minority of parents who were teaching their kids with DS to read.  I honestly found it difficult to believe & more than once I have admitted  blush that if, 5 years ago, you had told me that your child with DS was reading at almost a 4th grade level at 4.5 years, I would have politely said " Oh, that's wonderful." & probably walked away snickering. As I said, my daughter has taught me a lot!

I really didn't believe it, but I was intrigued enough, that by the time K was 8 months old, I had built her a Doman style crawling track & to that same doctor's surprise & disbelief (he had to see it before he would believe it), she was crawling! I was so excited by that success, that at around the same time, I started showing K the large, red, Doman style flashcards. Of course, ever the skeptic, I really had my doubts, so I was a "closet flash card Mom" for the longest time, but sure enough, just a few months after K's first birthday, she began showing me that she was learning some of the words!  She knew many sight words & had self taught herself all of the letters & sounds of the alphabet by age 2. She read her first commercial print book that we had not practiced at age 3.5.

Back to my goals - I had originally hoped K would read by grade 1.  I had 2 reasons for this:

1. I wanted the teachers to see a little girl who had potential to learn just like the other students in her class & I wanted them to have very high expectations because the higher the expectations, the more success a child will have.

2.  I wanted K to be able to pick up her books & read the directions, so that if she didn't understand or hear the teacher properly, then at least she could read & try to figure it out for herself.  She is already doing this by the way - she reads her math workbook instructions all the time.

Now, at age 4.5, my concerns have changed.  We have always planned to hold K back in school (as we did her older sister who was born in December), to allow her to have one more year of maturing as well as physical growth because she is quite tiny.  Rather than worrying about her keeping up, at least in the early years of school, I am worried about her being bored - it is a funny dilemma & one that I look forward to working on. LOL

My reasons for teaching her are still the same though.  I want her teachers to see that she has just as much potential as any other student & therefore, they need to have very high expectations. Also, although K speaks well for her age, she is not speaking as well as most typical kids her age. When the other kids in kindergarten are learning that the letter A say aaa, & she is already reading novels, I anticipate that she can work on catching up on speech.

I hope it's a long elevator ride, because I wrote a bit of a novel!


I just wanted to add to this a little bit. When I talked about goals, I missed at least one. I also was hoping that by teaching K to read from an early age that she would become proficient enough that reading wouid be a joy - not a chore for her. All 3 of her older sisters, as well as myself love reading. To the point where my daughters, like their mother before them, often get caught reading in bed. The subject of reading in math or science class has also come up recently during a parent-teacher conference(thankfully, we are not dealing with any worse behavioral issues:), & I turned to my dear husband & told him that he would have to be responsible for speaking with the offender. As a not exactly reformed sneaking a book into my desk offender myself, I just didn't feel I was responsible enough to deal with the situation. LOL! This is what I wanted for K, a true joy & voracious appetite for books & thankfully, I am confident already that I'll be confiscating her flashlights at bed time one day too!


  1. Because of work you and others have done, it was never a question in my mind that my beautiful daughter wold learn to read and enjoy books just as much as my typical daughters and i do. Thank you for all the work you hsve done to give me tools to use so I'm not reinventing the wheel. As to your discipline issue, we have that same problem at our house and it was brought up at all three of our conferences. At our house, its a huge punishment to be grounded from books!

  2. I love this, and could have written this myself! I had always wanted Sammi to be reading by Kindergarten, as I was when I was a child. Reading has always been a HUGE part of my life. We began working on a reading program when she was about 4 1/2, and she did *amazingly* well at it. She turned 5 in May, began Kindergarten at the end of August, and by September was reading beginner reader books. Now she'll pick up just about *any* level 1 children's book, and with help on some of the odd words she's never seen before, can read whatever she wants. Her voracious appetite for books that she's had since birth has increased beyond what I could ever have anticipated. Our children will surprise us in so many ways. Now I just hope she'll surprise me in math, too... ;-)

  3. Laura, I'm so glad you were inspired to write this post. :-) And I love that you have the discipline to maintain such a wonderful blog! keep up the fantastic job - you are an inspiration to many!