Rachel is a good reader. She has always enjoyed reading and has won a lot of reading awards. She is very proud of the fact that she is a good reader. Rachel has good fluency and word recognition. She is a sight word reader. I jokingly say she has never seen a vowel she likes. This has seriously impacted her spelling, and spelling is not her strength. I had a party for myself the day we stopped having spelling tests at school.
Many children with Down syndrome are good readers. Many are like Rachel and have good fluency and word recognition. Like Rachel they can read almost anything but do they understand it? Comprehension is the struggle. This is true for Rachel, too. With that I want to add a little disclaimer of sorts. Rachel can tell you about what she has read. She may not be able to tell you the answers to your questions about plot, writer’s intentions, and so forth. We are okay with that.
From the time Rachel was small, we have put our eggs in the reading basket. Our theory has always been that reading is her ticket and window to the world. I would believe that whether she had Down syndrome or not. From before she was born we have been reading to her. We’ve been going to the library. We had reading tutors and at IEP meetings when they wanted to pull her out for extra help with reading, we said we want both. Yep, that’s right. We want the extra help and we don’t want her pulled out during reading. Reading immersion. When told we’ve never done it that way before, we told them it would be a lovely new adventure for all of us. We believe it has paid off. Reading has a social component and sometimes I think educators get a little too focused on academics. What do I mean by this? If Rachel is reading the same things as her peers, she can discuss it in social settings. If she isn’t reading the same things as her peers, she has two things against her. I saw this in action last year. They had read “My Louisiana Sky” in language arts. I drive a few girls home from school and they were talking about the book, the setting and the characters. Rachel chimed right in with everyone else. Had she not been in the class and reading it – she wouldn’t have been able to participate in that conversation. They also read “The Outsiders” and worked on small groups. Her teacher said she was observing as they answered questions She said Rachel had the answer to one particular question and she was right when the other kids were wrong. Rachel got them to understand and believe her! More skills for life.
I have completely digressed from the point of this blog. I wanted to share with you about Bookshare, Read Outloud and Read2Go. I hope that most of you already know but on the chance that you don’t, I wanted to share this fabulous resource. I only learned of it last year and from two friends, one who is a special education teacher and a friend who is director of a DS group. My friend who is the teacher has a son with a visual disability and one with a reading disability. Both are college students. Bookshare is a non-profit that helps you to get access to all kinds of electronic books including text books and it’s free. You have to register and complete some paperwork including certifying that he person using the books has a disability. Our reading teachers weren’t familiar with the program and they are now adopting it. The beauty of it is this is that it may take a little time but almost every book you may need is accessible and free. The Bookshare website tells you exactly what to do including how to download a free program (Read Outloud) for reading the books on your PC or MAC. The iPad app, Read2Go, has to be purchased but is affordable. The program reads the book to you phonetically and highlights as you read it. You can choose male or female readers and speed of reading. We slow Rachel’s down because she tends to be a fast reader and this makes her focus on certain words. Rachel still likes to do her leisure reading (Dork Diaries, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Cupcake Diaries, American Girl books) on her Kindle on her iPad or by hard copy. However, she does read some of those on the Read2Go program on the iPad. They are using it in her Read 180 class and the teacher is able to help get the correct textbooks. We’ve been able to find the adaptive reader and all textbooks. It isn’t perfect. We had some issues with downloads to the iPad but figured it out. We believe over the long haul, it will help with comprehension. There isn’t any research to support this yet, but we think it can’t hurt and Rachel likes it. I am not a Bookshare expert but I think it covers pretty much all grade levels, and I know some college students who are accessing their textbooks with this program. Be sure to share it with your teachers.
Whether you are struggling with reading or just want to continue improving, I am hoping that this will be a tool some of you use to assist with reading. My disclaimer is that I am NOT a reading expert. Jonathan and I both love reading. Reading is important to us. I don’t know that Rachel loves it as much as we do but she does enjoy reading. I find her reading in her room often (especially the American Girl books about boys, friends, manners, etc.) In the summer, she has required reading. We enroll in programs where she gets rewards for minutes read and number of books read and that aren’t measured by comprehension. I know that many of my friends and acquaintances and many of you have done these same things and your student still struggles with reading. I don’t have a solution but I do want to keep looking for solutions with you.