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Oh No! My Son Can’t Read!

I have three sons.


Cuties, right?? That’s so not the point of this article but they are good lookin’ kids, yes?

These boys have the same parents, they are being raised with the same values, they love the same God, all three live in the same house, they share the same bedroom, sit together in the same classroom and eat meals at the same table. For all their sameness of circumstance, as most of you parents of more than one child can attest, there have never been three more contrasting personalities.

They each see, feel, learn, experience, and process life differently. Understanding that I have been blessed with three very different children, I’ll admit I had a very difficult time processing the fact that my youngest son was not picking up reading skills with any measure of the relative ease of his brothers before him.

My Andrew turned 6 this last December. An always educationally homeschool-skeptical and hawk-eyed family member of mine can barely hide her concern over his late-blooming reading skills. I have friends with 4 year old children that can read stories to my 6 year old. Is that not humbling and a tad bit embarrassing??


We’ve been a homeschooling family for 5+ years so I’ve heard and participated in the conversations we all have at co-ops and homeschool gatherings with regards to reading; boys take longer than girls, try (X,Y,Z) curriculum, it works wonders, they’ll learn when they’re ready, etc. On the flip side of the coin is the rest of the world that seems to believe earlier is better, more is best, organized preschool is a must and not knowing how to read sight words and decipher easy readers the first day of kindergarten is an unacceptable travesty.

The reality is that every child is different, and no two paths to reading will look the same. When he was 4 1/2, we tried a formal reading program; it was a disaster. That summer at age 5 we tried another. He had almost no interest and had to be dragged through lessons kicking and screaming. From 5 1/2 to 6, I backed off. He played word games on iDevices, gained command of his ABCs, worked slowly through a fun pre-reading skills program, practiced his handwriting, and spent lots of time being read to by Mom, Dad, and the brothers. Last week I pulled out the same program we used when he was 5, and you know what? He likes it! He’s learning; he’s connecting the dots between letters and pictures and written words; he’s learning to read! Granted, his kindergarten year is quickly coming to a close and he’s only just beginning to show real progress, but it IS progress and I’m thrilled to see it.

Because of the conflicting messages out there in the realm of elementary reading skills and timelines, I sat down to write this article believing my boy was pretty far behind the curve. Whether I believed this because of my super-educated family member’s disappointment, my own embarrassment, or the experiences I had with the two older guys that seemingly exited the womb reading, I was wrong. WebMD published a very helpful article about when kids should learn to read, write and do math that helped confirm my guy was learning at the right rate for HIM.

Andrew probably could be reading by now had I continued to force the issue when he was younger, but I would have created a whole heap of unnecessary stress and family strife in the process. He might be able to work through simple books right now, but would I have fostered the love of reading I want my boys to have? Probably not. I absolutely would have missed the moment we had last week when he realized he knew what the three little letters on the page meant, and his face lit up with genuine excitement. So, my son can’t read, but he loves to learn, and I have absolute confidence the rest will follow!

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  1. I have 4 boys, ages 16-8, and none of them read well until they were 7. But after that, because of the work we had done prior to them reading such as some simple phonics, reading to them, giving them a love for learning, they sky rocketed into reading. And you will see if coming. You will see the smoke billowing around the engines and think “oh my, it’s coming”. And you will tell your husband “hey, I can see it coming”. You’ll get excited and think “the engine is started now…”. It’s so fun to watch. I mean one day my boys could not read and three months later they were reading chapter books. Really, I’m not exaggerating. Be encouraged, he will read, and he will read well if you are instilling a love for reading and a love for learning.

  2. And this is why homeschooling is so great. The kid who can learn how to read well at age 4 will, and the kid who needs to wait until he’s 6 can wait.

  3. My son didn’t learn to read well until he was 10. It was a journey. GARFIELD COMICS WORKED FOR HIM!!!

  4. It’s so true that they do things at their own pace. My oldest is 6 and though he’s been late hitting every milestone since he was born, he started reading at 5 and loves it! It’s seldom that we find him without a book in his hand. Do I expect each of my children to read right at 5? Nope. But that’s okay. I know they’ll read and until then, I have fun reading to them.

  5. Oh my goodness, I do not at all consider 6 years old and not reading to be late blooming! Sounds like he’s right where he should be, playing and exploring in early childhood. He will learn to read just fine in another year or two after his body and brain have more time to develop and integrate. 🙂

  6. Great post. Same exact issues I faced with my oldest, who will be 8 the end of June, and who is “finally” reading somewhat. If we practiced more (totally my fault for not doing so, not his), he’d be doing even better. Actually taking a few months off from everything when the youngest was off in December seems to have done the most good. It was as if it gave his mind a break, some time to process what he had learned.

  7. Mom of nine here. Four graduated and five still in the home. Three of mine had difficulty learning to read. I started to push it and decided to back off. A year or more of just reading to them and loving them made all of the difference. We also love Alphabet Island, it is a great curriculum, that made it fun. Anyway, two out of three our avid readers now, reading under the cover at night, they love it. Great encouragement!

  8. I have 4 boys also, 10-3. My oldest caught on very quickly while my second 2 struggled. My 8 year old is just now really getting it. With my now 6 year old we took it slow. He just sounded out his first words this week. He’s thrilled and so am I. No tears involved. Each one has a different learning style and timeline. That’s what makes homeschool so beautiful. If my 8 year old were in a brick and mortar school he would be way behind and have confidence issues. I love watching them learn with excitement!

  9. My 1st child (a girl) started reading at the age of 4 and was fluent by the age of 5. My 2nd child started to read small words when he was 5 and 6 but never really could pick up reading. I tried everything from workbooks, to phonics, to music….trying to make things fun etc. I finally gave up and just made it something we only worked on a few days a week for maybe 10 minutes at a time. I had him evaluated for developmental delays but all was well there. The only thing the testing did pick up is that he had no comprehension. Through the years he started to get better. Today he is 20 years old and reads well. He doesn’t think so but I do. He tends to listen to audio books instead of reading which I am fine with. My 3rd child does the same thing…he has autism and can read at a 3rd grade level but really prefers audio books. My youngest child (also a boy) didn’t start reading until he was about 7 or 8. I really pushed reading with him when he was about 5 years old but he pushed back and resisted…he just wouldn’t do it. I let it go and just took to reading aloud to him which we both loved. Now he reads very very well and he LOVES to read! Every child is different. You just have to be patient and do what’s best for them.

  10. Not that you need another story, but I’ll add mine to the mix! I taught school and taught adults to read and was over-the-top stressed by my first son’s late reading development – especially when letters were written backwards for … years. I followed my gut and took a leap of faith and decided he could wait to learn and that if I killed his love for learning, that would blow everything. Around age ten, (10!) I started the Harry Potter series then intentionally took a break when it was really getting good. By this point, I knew he had reading skills because I saw how he devoured Calvin & Hobbes (at around 8 or 9, probably). He couldn’t stand waiting for me to finish HP, picked it up and that was that. He’s been buried under books now for 2 years and sometimes, I miss that little boy, who was more available and wanted me to read to him. I can’t tell you how many years his reading leaped in a year, but it was definitely several. Critics, be gone! 🙂

  11. Danielle,
    You have done exactly the right thing – foster a love for reading. Do that first and reading to him is the most important thing – then he will want to read when he is ready. I tried to “teach” my daughter to read at 3 and 4 — she hated it. So she didn’t start to read until grade one – and slowly. She is now a teacher and reads voraciously because she wants to.
    Blessings to you as you listen to your heart and to God – not to “man”.

  12. Kudos to you for waiting! I’ve been homeschooling for 18 years and have seen nothing in our family or those around us that changes my opinion regarding waiting until a child is developmentally ready before you try to teach them to read. Parents that would never dream of being concerned that their 6month isn’t walking or their 12month old isn’t talking, suddenly throw all common sense out the window when it comes to their 4, 5, 6 year old and reading. If they’re ready, wonderful, by all means, teach them! But if they are not, it just frustrates the parent and child both, and often the child makes no headway until that developmental stage appears. Let’s enjoy our children and be patient with them and love them and understand that, while academics is important, it is NOT the be all, end all to everything.

  13. Just wanted to say kudos to you! I have been homeschooling for five years and I have had the same experience you have. My oldest daughter was reading at an early age. No real reason other than that she enjoyed it. My second daughter fought learning to read tooth and nail! I can remember begging her to finish her reading and she would cry. It was awful for both of us. Eventually, I realized that she would read at her own pace. I backed off. I continued to spend time reading to her and encouraging her. She is now in third grade and reads above grade level. She did it when it was right for her. I think that kids would be a lot happier if they were all able to learn at their own rate.

  14. I have five sons and we’ve home-schooled all of them. Each child is SO different, of course they all learn differently. Our first son learned to read at 4, our second son was 8, our third son was 12 (he does have dyslexia), our fourth son learned at 8 and went from a non-reader to 3rd grade level in about 6 months, and lastly, our fifth son is learning now…he’s 8. They all have different learning styles which makes life interesting but that’s the beauty of teaching them at home. I KNOW them and can adjust to their learning style.

  15. I’m glad my son is not the only one. My girls leaned to read at 4-5 in a private school although the oldest struggled a lot. My son turned 6 last November and shows no interest at all in reading. I’ve really been trying to let him lead when it comes to learning and not push him but all he really wants to do is play. Although he learns math very quickly its hard to get him to sit down and do it. He shows little interest in anything besides super hero’s and lego’s. I know once he starts reading he will probably just take off but its hard to get him interested. It bothers him not at all that kids younger than him can read. I’m just hoping I’m not being too lenient on the learning and that he gets more excited about it. He loves to be read to though so I’m hoping that will eventually make him more interested. Thank you for sharing!

  16. My daughter just turned 6 in January and is still not really reading. We work together on phonics and reading, etc. but she just hasn’t picked it up fully yet. She’s a smart, vibrant girl who loves art and has an amazing imagination… I have no concerns. I love that children can be free to learn at their own pace. The thing with reading for me is this – I desperately want our children to LOVE reading. If I force them to read, they will hate the experience. I see enough parents in the library forcing their kids to read while their child suffers through it, hating every moment. We read, A LOT. Our children love reading and our 7 year old is a vigorous reader. I never pushed reading on him either… I say, power to you, Mom! You’re so right for doing things how you are. I’m right with you! 🙂

  17. Wow, ladies! You have all blown me away with your comments, kinship and encouragement today! I am just now seeing your stories and experiences as I was in the hospital all day with the very same 6 year old boy having his tonsils and adenoids removed. 🙂 Thank you for taking the time to share!!

    Hugs to all,


  18. I am a former public school teacher and reading specialist. What a shock when my son struggled with learning to read! Homeschooling gave me the flexibility to meet his needs and he NEVER had a negative feeling about reading. He also NEVER had any idea he was a struggling reader. He is 9 now and is an avid reader. I have shared our journey: http://waddleeahchaa.com/2012/09/04/how-to-turn-a-struggling-reader-into-an-avid-reader-10-book-giveaway/

  19. Thank you for this write up. I needed this. My daughter is 6 and I just started homeschooling her because she was an extreme preemie (born at 24 weeks) and she gets sick very easily which leads to hospitalization. This just happened again in January and my husband and I decided it was in her best interest to home school her. We have two other children that are in the public schools. One will graduate this year and the other is in 6th grade (she does not want to be home schooled, yet) When our youngest was in school, I kept hearing how she was behind in reading. It doesn’t seem to matter what we do with her, she isn’t picking it up as quickly as they would like. I feel like it is my fault that she is behind in reading and I really needed the confirmation that children will learn to read on their own. Our other two girls didn’t have any problems learning to read.

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