PTO Mission: Get Struggling Readers Books They Can Read!
Get Struggling Readers Books They Can Read!
A mother’s story about her daughter’s reading struggles and a vision to support all learners with reading difficulties
I have a courageous daughter, her name is Ireland. She is very much your typical 5th grader. She hangs out with nice friends, loves to roller skate and is passionate about learning. She cares about her little sister and helps her dad and I around the house. She’s a joy to be around and, like most parents, my husband and I would do anything to help her achieve her goals.
Lately, I’ve seen Ireland bring home a backpack full of books from her school library, but she doesn’t read them. Week after week they stay in her backpack or on a kitchen shelf and on Friday’s she returns them to the library. Finally, I asked her, “Why do you bring these books home, if you aren’t going to read them?” She replied, “Because I don’t want to be different from my friends and check out picture books from our school library. It’s easier that way mom, so I don’t have to explain why I cannot read the classics or a good mystery novel.” Yes, my daughter is a typical 5th grader in every way, except that she reads at a first grade level. She doesn’t let on that she’s having problems reading, but I know that she does and have decided to do something about it!
I have been a member of my local PTO for 6 years. Over the years we have raised lots of money for our local schools to support many kinds of initiatives from book fairs to school spirit wear. Last year, I decided to stand up and be an advocate for children, like my daughter, who are struggling readers. My mission was to find books that would be of high interest and address the different learning styles of struggling readers. These books need to be written in multiple formats like paperback, audio & computer versions to meet their needs.
I talked with classroom teachers, the librarian, special education staff and administrators at my school. My initial search led me to purchase some books from a publisher that claimed their books were geared to struggling readers, but that’s not how my daughter viewed them. My high-tech daughter wasn’t thrilled with the low interest topics.
One day, I attended a local SEDOL (Special Education District of Lake County) meeting for parents who had struggling learners. We talked a lot about our kids’ learning styles and needs. I described my search for appropriate reading materials for my daughter. After the meeting, the SEDOL Assistive Technology Coordinator came up and handed me 3 versions of the same book (a paperback, an audio CD and a computer book on CD). She explained it should give my daughter some extra reading supports she may find helpful such as a professional character narrator reading the text and some text formatting that helps struggling readers better comprehend the content’s meaning.
This computer book changed my daughter’s life! The book was from a collection called Start-to-Finish, offered by Don Johnston, Inc. I went online and discovered that Don’s company was right in Illinois, not too far from our home. I also found out that Don was a struggling reader in his childhood, too! It was at that moment that I decided to drop in on Don and talk about presenting these books to our PTO. I thought, “If these books can engage my daughter and change her life, why wouldn’t we want to put them in our school libraries to change the lives of other children who need extra reading support?”
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