By: Sarah Koontz
I have a beautiful daughter. She has blonde hair, blue eyes, and a tender heart. She is my firstborn, the answer to many fervent prayers after a long season of infertility and loss.
She is compassionate and loving in every way. She is a thoughtful friend, a kind big sister, and a passionate animal lover. My daughter is amazing in every way, but my daughter can’t read.
At two years old, Anya began to dream of going to school. She talked about it each and every day, so my husband and I decided to send her to preschool a few weeks after her 3rd birthday. She excelled at everything she did, and was so happy to be in school with the other kids. Before we knew it, she was 5 years old and off to kindergarten.
About half way through her kindergarten year, we noticed that she was having difficulty with her reading. She would work really hard to learn the new concepts, but they just wouldn’t stick. We would work tirelessly to practice and develop her reading skills, only to discover that we simply weren’t making any progress.
I felt frustrated and overwhelmed, and so did she. There were so many tears, and the harder we tried, the worse it got. I will admit, I often wondered if what I was experiencing was normal. So I decided to share a video of Anya trying to read a story during the second half of her kindergarten year. I hope this helps you get a feel for what we were experiencing as parents.
Anya didn’t like to read, she didn’t think she could, and she barely got through kindergarten. But she did get through, and here is why: My daughter is brilliant. She is so smart that the teacher knew it would be a mistake to keep her in kindergarten for another year.
Our First Year in 1st Grade
So on to first grade we went. The first quarter of school was just review, so Anya did pretty well. But by the second quarter, we were drowning in homework.
On most days we would spend an hour together in the evening trying to get her reading assignments done. I complained to her teacher once about all the homework and she replied that it really should only be taking us 10-15 minutes per day to complete what was being sent home.
Anya’s self-confidence had taken quite a hit, and she started having full on panic attacks when we tried to get her to sit down and read. I remember when her teacher called me in for a special conference, and handed me research on dyslexia. As a parent who is experiencing elementary school for the first time, I really had nothing to compare our experience with. I wasn’t sure what was wrong with my child. It was so emotional for all of us, and we knew something had to change.
My husband and I did research into dyslexia and we both agreed that our daughter did not have the classic symptoms of this condition. There were times when she could easily read a set of words, and others times when the same set of words would not register and she could barely get through them.
I had always known that holding her back a year was an option because she has an August birthday. Mid-way through her first grade year, I began praying about this option and discussing it with my husband. Then we made the decision. We decided to hold her back, in hopes that another year of maturity and repetition of the foundational reading concepts would be the answer for our little girl.
I then called a special conference with her teacher, who is also a dear friend of our family, to inform her of this decision. Her reaction floored me! She had been praying that we would do this for Anya, she had been hoping that we would just give our little girl time to grow up a bit and try again next year.
You see, Anya was testing at the bottom of her class in reading. But she had near perfect scores in math and science (her daddy is a mechanical engineer, so we know where that comes from). I think this is what made the decision so tough for us, because we knew how smart of a kid she was and wondered how the decision would impact her self confidence.
We sat her down in February and told her that we weren’t going to keep pushing her with her reading. We were all going to take a deep breath, and go back to the basics. We were going to let her stay in first grade for another year and give her time to get it right.
And then she cried. And I cried. And I wondered if we had made the right decision. Sometimes it is so difficult to be a parent, and to do right by your kids. If I had known where we would be a year down the road, I would have never doubted myself. But I didn’t know, and that was the toughest part.
It has been 1 year since we decided to hold our daughter back, and I can’t wait to tell you what has happened during that time. CLICK HERE to read part 2 of the story.
Did your children ever have difficulties at school? What did you do to help them?
This week I learned that my daughter likely has dyslexia. I was not at all surprised by this because she is such a bright child who has always struggled with her reading. As parents, we feel it is our job to do everything we can to equip our children to succeed at life. But we have struggled to find a way to help her in this area.
We feel truly blessed to have had the right people interject their wisdom into our lives at crucial moments during the past few years. Her teachers, her aunt and her grandparents have patiently and consistently involved themselves in this situation.
To read more about what we are doing to help her through this, read this article.