Hello. My name is MJ. My child has reading difficulties. She's been tutored for 274 days. Every day is a struggle, but she's getting better.
There's a reason I'm using the familiar introduction voiced by addicts seeking group therapy in all those "Anonymous" programs. It has nothing to do with addiction -- but rather with the stigma surrounding tutoring.
Like millions of American parents, my husband and I are college graduates and voracious readers. When we became parents, we read constantly to our children - not just because all the evidence shows that it stimulates young brains and gives kids a head start....but also because we love reading.
Tutoring was what you got when preparing for the SATs - not the ABCs.
Both our kids are extremely verbal, vivacious and active - socially and physically. So it came as quite a shock when in first grade it became apparent that our oldest child just wasn't "getting" the reading thing. To make a long story short - hours of tutoring and repeating first grade got our son caught up.
I must admit that my son handled the whole thing better than I did, and in fact expressed relief that he was getting individualized help. He didn't carry with him the stigma that tutoring and being "held back" had when I was growing up in the sixties - and which I obviously still harbor.
He's now thriving as much as any pre-teen boy can allow himself in his first year of middle school. Still, asking him to pick up a book for enjoyment is tantamount to asking him to pick up his room.
I'm not sure why it came as so much a shock to us in the past year that our younger daughter was displaying similar and in fact, even more severe reading difficulties as my son. Because she's bright, clever, charming, excessively verbal, and apparently highly skilled at oral memorization - she was able to hide her problem from us and her teachers until the end of first grade, when I got the news that she was more than a grade level below standards.
Again, my first reaction ("Not again! How can this be? We did everything RIGHT!") was colored by the stigma I believe tutoring still has among many of us baby boomers. Although the National Center for Educational Statistics estimates that 38 percent of fourth graders nationally cannot read at a basic level, I never imagined my kids would be in THOSE statistics.
Granted, tutoring has come a long way, thanks to a highly competitive educational environment, crowded classrooms, an emphasis in public schools on testing rather than learning and the mistaken belief by many millions of consumer/parents that Baby Einstein actually worked. Still, tutoring is not something most parents brag about in the car pick-up line at school.
But in my experience, tutoring is something that has rescued both my kids from a lifetime of struggling in the classroom. And even though my daughter's progress seems to be painfully slow, I know that NOW is the time to invest in getting her confidence and her skills in line with her classmates.
And because they are my kids and they LIVE to disagree with everything I say and think -- tutoring is now "cool." Don't tell them, but I totally agree.
Hello. My name is MJ. Both my children had or currently have reading difficulties. Every day is a struggle, but it's getting better.