Monday, 28 February 2011

The Universe has a terrific sense of irony

So, I love books.  A lot. More than just about anything on this earth.  You know that about me by now.  Imagine growing up surrounded by all these books I own.  Heaven, right?  to you and me, a definite exuberant shout of yes. 

Remember when you were learning to read?  If your brain sees a word it doesn't know, we stop and recognize that we don't know it, and try to figure it out.  Imagine if your brain just put a word in place of that, that it already knew.  Without you knowing.  So what you read isn't what is there before you, but you can't see what's different unless someone shows you.  That's part of what my daughter is facing, we know now.  She has a memory retrieval problem, a learning disability.

She also has an auditory problem.  She misses cues in class, and she can't absorb much information through her ears.  She has normal hearing, but something happens to the word on the way into the brain, and it doesn't get placed in her auditory center, it doesn't quite reach it. So in a world where most schooling is through sound, it's all confusion and noise for my 8 year old.  She doesn't hear explanations, and ideas have to be broken up into visual clues for her to understand them.  This is another learning disability, called Auditory Processing Disorder.  She was just diagnosed two weeks ago, as soon as she was old enough for the test to confirm what her amazing support teachers at school have suspected.

Combine the two, and ask her what it means when in a story a boy is travelling to see his mother, the question how he feels, and she doesn't understand what the question is.  She missed the idea that he was nervous because he was travelling alone, and that his gift to his mother was his way of showing he loved her. It means we have to find another way of showing her what the words mean, and try to find a way to explain the meaning behind the words, the idea they are trying to express.  Before now, I never even wondered how we do it, because I always knew it.  This extends to her math, her science, her social sciences:  everything that uses words, has to be explained in two or three different ways before she begins to grasp what is being presented.  I'm not complaining, I'm puzzled and bewildered at the enormity of having to make sure my daughter understands her homework every night before she starts it, and usually having to read it myself so I can find yet another way to show her.  I am beginning to realize how much our world relies on knowledge and understanding of the written word, and how much we convey about everything, through writing.

It means that the learning that I love to do, the experiences I know from school, the challenge of learning that I loved and exceeded in (except in math), are not experiences my daughter knows.  She is making huge improvements this year in her reading, and she is trying very hard. She is learning how to read  in two languages also- English and French.  She is bright, and funny, and sweet, and caring, and kind.

But she doesn't pick up a book for fun to read, and neither does her older brother except occasionally - he also has a learning disability, that he has mostly learned to work around.  The youngest one is already being tested along the same lines.

So, I look around me at all these lovely books, and I wonder, how can I get my daughter (and my son eventually) to want to read? Can I do more to create a love of books?  Or is it something one finds spontaneously, within one's self?

How ironic is it that in a house full of books, which the child experts on literacy all recommend, and the library cards each child got as soon as they were born, I am the only one who loves to read for pure pleasure, all the time? The universe has a strange sense of humour, to give me three children who struggle to make sense of the written word. They all love to buy me books!  Which I love.  I think  I would love it even more if one of them came running to me and said, "Mommy, there's a book I saw that I want......."  I still envision my children all reading for pleasure one day.  We have found with both of them that if we can find a book in the subject they like, they will look at it - animals for Holly, and soccer for Graham.  My son loves sports, so we've tricked him into letter recognition by getting World Cup albums.

I don't think I will take the ability to read for granted ever again.


Cath said...

This all makes me feel so sad for you, Susan. I've noticed that life seems to work in this bloody-minded sort of way and I so often wonder 'why?' But the best thing is that you say, 'She is bright, and funny, and sweet, and caring, and kind.' And that is just wonderful. Because really, with those assets, a mum like you, and what sounds like a good school, she has a better chance than many of overcoming her problems. I've read too where people who have a difficult time learning to read often love it in the end *because* they had to put in so much more effort than the rest of us in order to achieve that goal. And I truly think that your love of books, and living in a housefull of them, will eventually be a positive influence, even if it might not seem to at the moment.

Sam Sattler said...

Susan, I've gone through much the same with my two grandsons. Both of them suffer from learning disabilities that make it very hard for them to read for pleasure; reading, for them, is work. The boys are 8 and 9 now and have made significant progress and I am still hoping that they will get to the point that reading is not such a chore for them.

I'm hopeful that will happen because both boys really do love to have books read to them. They enjoy shopping for books and picking out things they know they will enjoy. So there's hope for them...and your children. I think the best thing we can do for them is to support their efforts and show, by example, what books can mean to people.

Hang in there...

Kailana said...

That's really too bad... I grew up in a family of 5 and I am the only one that reads. And now that I am older, I don't have children of my own, but the guy I am with doesn't read. Just the fact that they don't read has always made me sad. It is much different when it is your own child.

zetor said...

I do hope your daughter gets lots of help.
As a child I didn't read a lot, not through any learning difficulty, just wasn't interested , the penny' seemed to drop in my 20's and books became a great pleasure. There were always library books that my Mum borrowed in the house and I think this spurred me on. I am sure that the reading environment that you have created in your home will help sooner or later.

zetor said...

I do hope your daughter gets lots of help.
As a child I didn't read a lot, not through any learning difficulty, just wasn't interested , the penny' seemed to drop in my 20's and books became a great pleasure. There were always library books that my Mum borrowed in the house and I think this spurred me on. I am sure that the reading environment that you have created in your home will help sooner or later.

zetor said...

I do hope your daughter gets lots of help.
As a child I didn't read a lot, not through any learning difficulty, just wasn't interested , the penny' seemed to drop in my 20's and books became a great pleasure. There were always library books that my Mum borrowed in the house and I think this spurred me on. I am sure that the reading environment that you have created in your home will help sooner or later.

Daphne said...

This post sort of broke my heart for you -- I hope you guys find a way to help your kids live life on their terms! I can only imagine how hard it would be to try and show your kids the joy there is to be had in reading -- but maybe they can find joy elsewhere? But, the important this is that you are showing them the joy a person can get from doing something they love, and that's really an amazing gift to give a child, however they interpret it. Sending hugs.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Susan, that may all change. My son wasn't much of a reader as a child, but now he is.....have faith and encourage.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Susan- this is ironic and humbling. I do take many things for granted - being able to read and process information is one of them. I do hope that this process will get easier for you and your daughter. How lucky she is that she has a support system at home and in school to help her.

Susan said...

CAth: The good news is she is interested in reading some things, and trying to read on her own, things on tv and the computer, so she is learning. I am realizing that the ease and joy with which I read isn't the same, though she is very curious about my books, too. Thank you for your words of encouragement. I know things have been difficult for you recently with your husband's health. I think as I get older I take less and less for granted!

Sam: That is really difficult, two grandchildren, isn't it? Though I am preparing myself for the youngest too. Do your grandsons enjoy sports or video games? Thank you so much for sharing with me. It certainly makes every triumph that much more a celebration, doesn't it? My kids love to be read to, also. You are right, all we can do is lead by example, with our love of books.

Kailana: I remember you saying that you are the only one who reads in your family. Everyone reads in my family in varying degrees, but we all have some books around. I'm the real bookaholic along with my mother. I think like you do, that people who don't read are missing out, but they would say the same for us. :-D I really wanted to pass this book gene along, though! lol

zetor: I really like this, that your Mom's library books got you interested eventually reading. I think that is wonderful and encouraging that you did come to reading, a little later in life. I have to try to remember to not push books too much on them, too! Thank you, zetor.

Daphne: thank you so much! I really like how you put that showing the kids my passion can help them with theirs, no matter what it is. You are right. And they each are individuals, with strong likes and dislikes already. I think the freedom to be your own person is very important, so your words really help to see that this is what I'm giving them any, by example. Hugs back to you!

Diane: thank you! My eldest isn't much of a reader, but he does read, and is even buying the occasional book here and there. He's 22, so maybe sometimes, like zetor says, it's something some people have to grow into. Certainly all my kids talk about all the books we(I!) own! lol Did your son have any favourite kinds of books while he was young?

Stephanie: yes, I think of how lucky we are, that her disorder can be recognized now, so she gets the support she needs. And that she is trying really hard. She wants to read, and I think that will be the key for her, as it is for any person. Thank you for your lovely words!

Sue F. said...

Hopefully, reading will become easier for your daughter and she will join you in this great passion! I have always considered it one of my greatest life accomplishments that my three children and four grandchildren LOVE to read! It is an amazing gift to pass on to others and I am sure that with your great example, your kids will get there too!

Emily Barton said...

Oh, that is difficult. It sounds like you've got lots of good support through the school, though, which is key. Good luck with it. I'm sure, even if your kids never become readers like you, that they will find other, wonderful, imaginative and creative ways to enjoy life (because I am sure they must all have vivid imaginations coming from you).

Susan said...

Sue F: thank you so much for your kind words. I would love to have one of my children read like I do! But then again, they do have their own gifts and talents,and not everyone does love books like we do. I am thrilled that so many in your family are so passionate about reading. That is fabulous :-)

Emily: "Vivid imagination from you" is right. Currently my daughter is watching DR Who Season 5 over and over - no, no hint of obsession there! lol and the youngest is obsessed with everything soccer. I wasn't kidding when I said he was learning to read through learning to recognize the names of English soccer league clubs! lol I think I was just longing for a moment when one of them would join me in reading. You are right, so long as they each have their own loves and passions and creative spirit, then that is good. Thanks, Emily :-)

Gavin said...

Susan - I meant to respond to this post earlier. It sounds like you and your daughter have great support and that's what counts. Having trained in some LD/Dyslexia support methods I know it takes work, perseverance and advocacy but your daughter can develop the skills she needs to flourish!

Susan said...

Gavin: thank you so much! Because I've watched my eldest son overcome his learning disability (he's at university now), and because there is so much support for Holly-Anne AND she is learning to read, I know she will overcome most of her obstacles. I think the greatest challenge is getting her to realize when she has read something wrong - put in the word or phrase that doesn't make sense, in the context, and that will come with time.

I wonder if there are Dr Who comic books available? We have the annuals, but they are a bit beyond her still. She'd read anything with the Doctor in it!