Friday, November 18, 2011

On the Journey to Read

As I've mentioned in a previous post, I have the privilege of working with a gentleman in his sixties who has never learned how to read. As you can imagine, his illiteracy has affected his ability to find and keep a job, which has become quite a discouraging problem for him. There aren't a lot of jobs out there that don't require at least a minimal level of reading ability. And when you can't read AT ALL, which is this gentleman's case, your ability to compete for jobs that are available is definitely compromised.

Yesterday I worked with this gentleman for two hours on just five letters of the alphabet. I admit that I thought we would get through more content than we did. But that is where he's at right now, and he's comfortable with that. He was soaking it in. We practiced the names and sounds of the letters, practiced the concept of the slide, and began to sound out three-letter words. We would exchange high-fives to celebrate his successes, and we discussed vocabulary meaning and real-life application with each word as we went along. He is definitely motivated to learn, and he's already talking about what he will be able to do in another couple months after getting some more reading skills down. But I recognize that consistency and self-motivation will be a key to his success. He's committed himself to review and practice on his own at home (he offered to do that before I even had a chance to make that suggestion), and he will continue to do some independent work on the Reading Horizons software program to supplement our one-on-one instruction time.

As I think about the beginning of his journey to learn how to read--something he has never been able to do up to this point in his life--I think about some things I need to keep in mind as I continue to work with him that hopefully could be relevant to you in your particular educational and life-learning contexts. I'm sure you have your own list of ideas, as well, so feel free to share them.

1. Never take for granted the fact that you can read. (See my blog post on the Value of Literacy.)
2. Patience certainly is a virtue, both as the one learning to read and the one teaching.
3. Set realistic expectations.
4. Be prepared for successes, but also be prepared to grow from challenges, as well.
5. Be persistent.
6. Provide plenty of validation and praise.
7. Celebrate successes.
8. Show enthusiasm.
9. Instill confidence.
10. Paint a picture of long-term success in their minds. Refer to that success often.
11. Help them to set obtainable goals. Refer to those goals often.
12. Use goals and recognition of long-term success to encourage them and to help them maintain a positive attitude.
13. Be consistent.
14. Instill in them the belief that there is no such thing as a dumb question.
15.  Empower them with the knowledge that the sky's the limit!

(See On the Journey to Read: Part 2.)

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