Tag Archives: adhd

Reading Checklist for Reading Difficulties

7 Aug

Go to http://www.dyslexia-ma.org/Events-pdfs/Early-intervention-red-flags.pdf for a list of red flags of reading difficulties

Books for Struggling Readers

7 Aug

Babymouse Series Graphic Novels by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

Even though their covers are pink, and the protagonist female, boys fall for Babymouse also.

From the publisher: “Meet Babymouse, a sassy young mouse who dreams of glamour, excitement, adventure, straight whiskers, being queen of the world…Readers will love Babymouse’s vivid imagination…and the clever illustrations and hilarious storyline of brother-sister team Matthew and Jennifer Holm.”


Wonder  by R.J. Palacio

Auggie is heading to 5th grade at a mainstream school. Until now, his extreme facial deformity has kept him home and safe from peer ridicule. Readers enter into Auggie’s life as he embarks upon a challenge to get his classmates to see beyond his face.


The One and Only Ivan by Kathrine Applegate

Simply told story from a captive gorilla’s perspective. It is a sweet book looks at life from the other side of the cage.

From the publisher: “Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all….and then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family.”


Wild Wings by Gill Lewis

The reader takes an adventure with Callum while he tries to keep a promise to a girl and an endangered bird. Set in modern Ireland, it is a suspenseful story that explores grief, survival and respect for the natural world.


Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Written in beautiful free verse narrative, the text is very assessable, but the story is deep and sophisticated. The reader follows 10 year old Ha, her mother, and three brothers as they are forced to flee Vietnam during the war. They end up in Alabama having to make extraordinary cultural shifts.


The Strange Case of Origami Yoda and its sequel, Darth Paper Strikes Back: An Origami Yoda Book by Tom Angleberger

The “Origami Yoda” books tell the story of a sixth-grade weirdo and his mysterious ability to dispense bona fide wisdom through a Yoda finger puppet (cartoons and marginalia included). The book is structured as a collection of stories gathered by Tommy and told by kids who either believe or don’t. Ages 8-12


Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

The popularity of the “Wimpy” series ushered in many popular spin-offs. The best thing about these humorous graphic novels is that they appeal to all reading abilities. Because everyone in the class reads (and enjoys) them, the series creates a shared experience among the students, regardless of reading abilities. Ages 8-12

Other Books Like Diary of a Wimpy Kid:

Planet Tad by Tim Carvell

Tad has an agenda: Survive seventh grade.
also wants to: grow a mustache, get girls to notice him, and do a kickflip on his skateboard…
But those are not the
main reasons he started a blog. Tad just has a lot of important thoughts he wants to share with the world, like: Here is the first thing I have learned about having a dog in your house: Don’t feed them nachos. Not ever.

Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald, illus. by J.P. Coovert

From the author’s website: “Charlie Joe Jackson may be the most reluctant reader every born. He does whatever it takes to get out of reading, and so far, it’s worked out really well. But one day in middle school he gets into trouble, and finds his impressive record is on the line. Will he push his luck and do whatever it takes to get out of reading, or will he finally bite the bullet and… gasp…read a book?!? “

Alvin Ho by Lenore Look and LeUyen Pham
Big Nate by Lincoln Peirce


Love that Dog and Hate that Cat  by Sharon Creech

Both books are written in easy-to-read free verse and are so compelling and funny that students find themselves rethinking poetry. Ages 8-12


Guys Write for Guys Read: Boys’ Favorite Authors Write about Being Boys: 

A collection of wonderful, short autobiographical stories written by favorite authors like Avi, Dan Gutman, Daniel Pinkwater, and Jerry Spinelli; edited by Jon Scieszka

Guys Read: Funny Business

From the publisher: “Ten stories guaranteed to delight, amuse, and possibly make you spit your milk in your friend’s face”

Guys Read: Thriller

From the publisher: “Ten original short stories of mystery, thrills, intrigue, and nefarious activity by ten of the best mystery/thriller writers of our day. Read these if you dare!”

The Series is best for older readers as independent read-younger readers need some guidance-not all stories are appropriate for elementary ages and these stories are not just for boys. Grades 5-9


Knucklehead: Tall Tales & Mostly True Stories of Growing up Scieszka by Jon Sciezska

A hysterically funny autobiographical novel told with lots of visuals and exaggeration. Ages 9-12


Addie on the Inside by James Howe

From the publisher: “The Gang of Five is back in this third story from Paintbrush Falls. Addie Carle, the only girl in the group of friends is outspoken, opinionated, and sometimes…just a bit obnoxious. Told in elegant, accessible verse…gives readers a look at a strong, smart, and sensitive girl struggling with the box society wants to put her in.”


The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

A 566-page novel told mostly through illustration. Kids love this fat book; it makes them feel like “real readers.” A Caldecott Medal winner. Ages 9-12

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Like “Hugo Cabret” this book is told mostly through pictures. From the publisher: “Ben and Rose wish their lives were different. Set fifty years apart, their two stories — Ben’s told in words, Rose’s in pictures–weave back and forth on a spectacular journey.”


Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo 

A simply told touching story with short easy-to-read chapters.

Other books by Kate DiCamillo:      The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane      The Magician’s Elephant      Tiger Rising  


Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon Hale, Dean Hale, Nathan Hale

A funny retelling of the classic tale done in graphic novel format. Boys do like it, even though they resist it at first.


Lawn Boy by Gary Paulsen

A good short book packed with humor and adventure and a little introduction into how capitalism works. Ages 9-12 

And the sequel, Lawn Boy Returns.  

More books by Gary Paulsen include:
Liar, Liar: The Theory, Practice and Destructive Properties of Deception, and
Flat Broke: The Theory, Practice and Destructive Properties of Greed  


Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff by Jennifer L. Holm

The author uses everything from journal entries to refrigerator notes to tell a touching story about one girl’s challenging year. Ages 9-12


Many titles by Jerry Spinelli seem to get students hooked on reading in the middle elementary grades.  Loser and Love, Stargirl are favorites. Spinelli’s autobiography, Knots in My Yo-Yo String, is also a surprise hit.

Teachers who recommend these titles gain a lot of credibility with their students.

Young Adult Books

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Simple cartoons help tell the story of Arnold Spirit, a fourteen-year-old Indian, who has not had an easy life.  Using his humor and sharp observation, Arnold grapples with his own ambitions, his Indian identity and the world around him.


A Monster Calls: Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd by Patrick Ness (Author), Jim Kay (Illustrator)

This powerfully illustrated YA book is a powerful story about the monster, both real and imagined, that thirteen-year-old Conor must face.

Compiled by Kyle Redford

Sight Word Assessments

6 Aug

Administering a Fluency Assessment

6 Aug

Administering Fluency Assessments


 Directions. The following are some guidelines for administering fluency assessments:

  • Give your daughter a reading passage she has not seen before at her instructional level.
  • Fluency assessments are always done as “cold reads”; that is, they are done with material that is new to the person being tested.
  • Explain that you would like her to read the passage out loud and then answer tell you about  the story. Then say: When you are ready, you may begin.
  • Start your   stopwatch when the student reads the first word.
  • Follow along on your copy of the passage as the student reads. Place a line through each  word that is read incorrectly or omitted.
  • Place a check above each word that is read correctly.
  • If your daughter  substitutes or mispronounces a word, put a line through the word and write  the word she said above it.
  • If your daughter  does not correctly say the word within 3 seconds, say the word for her and circle the word to mark it as incorrect. Self-corrections and repetitions      are not marked as errors.
  • At the end of one  minute, stop your stopwatch and place a bracket (]) after the last word  read .
  • Have your daughter finish reading the passage.
  • Ask your daughter  to retell the story.


How to score. Use the following steps to determine your daughter’s fluency rate.


Scoring the retelling. Score the retelling using the following criteria. Assign an appropriate numeric score from 1 to 5 for future comparison.

  • No recall or      minimal recall of only a fact of two from the passage.


Ode to Football

6 Aug

Ode to Football

As the mother of two boys, I can remember taking long early morning walks in the heat of August praying for the beginning of football season. When the day finally arrived the boys would don there symbolic warrior pads and tight pants and prepare for their quasi war games.  From an exhausted mother’s perspective, this meant all of that adolescent angst that Lesko carefully discounts, would have an outlet in a culturally accepted rite of passage.

In Act Your Age! A Cultural Construction of Adolescence, Nancy Lesko questions these tendencies to label adolescents as deficient, controlled by hormones, crazy, and a little dangerous. She asks us to entertain a social-constructivist interpretation of the adolescent phenomenon. She attempts to debunk the popular assumptions associated with adolescents. She investigates how adolescence was conceptualized throughout history, and how ideas from the past affect current thoughts about youth.

Lesko’s discussion focuses on the Great Chain of Being, a symbol for  human development along the lines of race, gender, and national progress. The Great Chain of Being  depicts the hierarchy of animals, people, and societies that portrayed evolutionary history and sociological ranking. Evolutionary rankings were depicted from bottom to top. According to the Great Chain of Being, progress and civilization were the exclusive right of white men. Conversely, people of color, women, and youth were ranked lower and consequently regarded as being less civilized. The job of society was to help white male adolescents progress up the evolutionary scale, to become better, more civilized human beings. And what better way to accomplish this task than suiting them up in warrior costumes and letting them beat the shit out of each other. Wait a minute, how is this assisting in the journey of becoming an evolutionary superior? The alternatives presented to achieve this end are not as compelling as Friday Night

Lights. A trip to Juvie Hall rarely has a long term uplifting or rehabilitative effect. Perhaps the Young Men’s Christian Association and scouting have had more luck civilizing the savages.

I buy Lesko’s argument until she stretches her argument to assert that Great Chain of Being is a subversive metaphor for societal brainwashing in relation to race, gender, and national progress. She suggests that the Great Chain of Being insinuates the state of progress and civilization as being exclusive to white men, while people of color, women, and youth are ranked lower and regarded as less civilized. Personally, I wish my daughter could have suited up in warrior gear for a fall floundering. She needed an outlet for her adolescent angst much more than the boys.

Southeast Homeschool Expo

27 Jul

I am providing materials presented in my workshop at the Expo. It was a pleasure meeting so many wonderful and committed parents.

Why My Daughter?

21 Apr


Once upon a time there lived a beautiful prom queen. This prom queen possessed all the requisite physical characteristics that one might expect in a fantasy queen. She had golden tresses, blue eyes, porcelain skin, and a perfect white smile. She gave the illusion of developed sexuality without denying the possibility of innocence. She was a combination of loner and outsider.  She had the ability to mediate conflicts within her high school population because she has the genius of communication. She could be characterized as a cultural heroine in that she unified the individual and the group. Our prom queen differs significantly in one aspect of her life. She lived with a secret that she kept hidden throughout her school years. This young woman walked into my office and set this book into motion. This vision of perfection had one veiled flaw.  She was an undiagnosed dyslexic.

As much as 15-20% of the population demonstrates a significant reading disability.  This means that 4 or 5 children in the average classroom will have some form of reading disability. The symptoms of this disability may include slow or inaccurate reading, poor spelling, poor writing, or difficulty with comprehension. Whether or not these individuals qualify for special educational services is uncertain, but what is certain is they are likely to struggle with many aspects of the learning process.

The fundamental and powerful assumptions of our culture regarding literacy are that it is inherently good for the individual, good for the culture, difficult to acquire, and should be transmitted in classrooms. If literacy is difficult to acquire, then it becomes necessary to create a multitude of reasons to explain why some read better than others, as well as the cultural imperative to label as inferior those individuals who have poor reading skills.  The consequence of believing that literacy is best learned in classrooms enables schools to create a monopoly in which they blindly repeat the same failed instructional practices with the expectation of a different outcome.  

A history of Learning Disabilities (LD) in the United States reveals much about the cultural roles of literacy. After decades of neurological speculation regarding the exact nature of  dyslexia, critics of the diagnosis of dyslexia still assert that it is nothing more than a plausible explanation of why children of privilege and intelligence do not learn to read as expected or a means of securing more time for labeled children on high stakes examinations. The breakthrough of neuroimaging in children withdyslexia has revealed scientific evidence that individuals with dyslexia have a reduced engagement of the left temporo-parietalcortex for phonological processing of print. This same neuroimaging technique confirms the plasticity of the brain as it responds to effectiveintervention. Behavioral and brain measures identify infantsand young children at risk for dyslexia, and preventive interventionis often effective. There is hope that a combination of targeted teachingpractices and cognitive neuroscience measures could preventdyslexia from occurring in the majority of children who wouldotherwise develop dyslexia. To fully explore this phenomenon, it is necessary to understand the complexity of dyslexia.

The difficulties and concerns of a parent advocating for the reading disabled child are already significant. The confusion and misconceptions surrounding the diagnosis and treatment of dyslexia only add to the parental dilemma.  Unfortunately, there are charlatans who will take emotional and financial advantage of the desperate parents of the reading disabled. Providers of costly vision therapy require parents to commit to sixty to ninety hours of left to right tracking exercises at ninety to one hundred and twenty dollars an hour. Trendy movement therapy promises improved balance in the body and the brain. The neighborhood chiropractor is more than willing to lead the dyslexic child through a series of exercises promised to improve reading performance. The well-meaning but misinformed reading specialist assures the parents that their child’s reading will improve if only they use multicolored overlays on the child’s reading materials.

The correction of this very serious disability is not so simple. In order to seriously address the identification and remediation of dyslexic children, and protect the parents of these children from unnecessary expenditure of time and money, the myths and misconceptions surrounding dyslexia must be addressed. As we work to deconstruct the masculinized educational framework in an attempt to make the system more equitable, often forgotten are the compliant girls who are experiencing academic difficulty. The gender normative behavior of boys demand most of the attention of educational researchers and policy makers. As a reading specialist working primarily with diagnosed dyslexics, I am acutely aware that the immediate and long term impact of dyslexia upon the lives of girls is only now beginning to be considered. Many undiagnosed dyslexic girls enter the “closet” early in life, spending childhood years anxiously avoiding classroom participation in oral reading for fear of embarrassment and disclosure. Because girls tend to be affiliative by nature (Gilligan, 1982) the fear of possible peer rejection results in sustained levels of anxiety. Carried further, this fear of disclosure may curtail participation in typical literacy activities such as note writing, emailing, blogging, and yearbook signing.

Teachers often encourage girls to take on identities that emphasize nurturing, such as mother or teacher, and although these identities may provide girls with increased power in some classroom relations, they also deny girls access to other roles.

Carol Gilligan (1982)  created a stage theory of moral development exclusively for women. Rather than departing from the limitation of developmental stage construct to explain human development and behavior, she just develops her own female friendly version. Just like Kohlberg (1981), Gilligan’s model identifies major stages of moral development.  Female children begin with a selfish focus. As they develop they learn to care for others and reject selfishness. In the conventional stage, women doubt their freedom to act in their own interests. They value the interests of others above their own. In the post-conventional stage, women finally learn that their own interests are just as important as others. The core theoretical difference in the feminist model exists in Gilligan’s assertion that the transitions between the stages are caused by changes in the sense of self rather than in changes in cognitive capability. Kohlberg’s approach is based on Piaget’s cognitive developmental model while Gilligan’s is based on selective aspects of Freud.

Gilligan’s stages of moral development emerged from the study of women making significant decisions in their lives. This investigation was driven in reaction to Kohlberg’s experimental results that insinuated that women tended to be less morally developed than men.  Gilligan concludes that women’s sense of integrity appears to be entwined with an ethic of care rather than the ethic of justice.  Morally developed women think more about caring, for themselves and others, rather than following the rules.

Thus, an even closer look must be taken at the philosophical and academic profiles of the teachers with whom we entrust the academic and social growth of our girls. Levine (2006) in his description of future elementary education teachers as “less academically qualified than our children need or deserve” (p.56) epitomizes this critical perspective. In response to this criticism, the American Educational Research Association (Cochran-Smith & Zeichner, 2005) has called for more research in the area of teacher education.

     The majority of teachers in today’s work force are white, female and middle class. Teachers of color comprise about 16 percent of the teaching force in the United States (Banks, et al, 2005). In addition, pre-service as well as in-service teachers have little experience with children with learning differences or from cultures and languages different from their own. Our call as avocates is to determine the particular attributes, skills, and dispositions that are needed to increase the probability that all teachers will be able to deliver an academically appropriate pedagogy.

Today, with the advent of Response to Intervention (RTI), all teachers are mandated with the task of meeting the educational needs of all the children. General educators are understandably uncertain regarding their level of preparation for their new role of delivering special education pedagogy. There are few studies focused on the task of preparing teachers to work specifically with  girls. New research must focus on how well we are preparing teacher candidates with the theoretical understandings and pedagogical skills necessary to meet different learning needs and styles of our girls. In addition, we must also determine whether teacher education programs are preparing graduates who internalize and embrace the importance of debunking gender stereotypes.

It is essential to understand that domination and elitism still exist in America’s classroom to fully understand how the literacy identity in dyslexic girls occurs.  “Feminism is not just theoretically significant. Educational practices and educational outcomes are damaged by sexism. This is because there is a prevailing sexism both in and out of formal educational institutions: schools, universities, local authorities, governing bodies, government departments, educational publishing, and voluntary pressure groups. Inevitably sexism also distorts how such educational practices and outcomes are understood and researched. This is precisely the concern of feminist epistemology: how to improve knowledge and remove sexist distortions (Griffiths, 1995, p.219).”

The significance of a compliant female with reading problems is far down the list of educational concerns. Historically, much of the focus on policy, practice, and research on gender and education has been on issues related boys. The tide shifted in the 1990’s with the publication of a number of reports and popular books about girls and their educational disadvantages. The American Association of University Women (AAUW) published the much touted report of How Schools Shortchange Girls (1992). The focus of this report is the argument that current curricula and pedagogy are educationally depriving girls. In addition, books such as Failing at Fairness (Sadker & Sadker, 1994), School Girls (Orenstein, 1994), and Reviving Ophelia (Pipher, 1994), address the psychological damage and educational neglect to which girls are subjected in the male dominated classroom. According to these authors, girls are called on less often by teachers, show less involvement and achievement in math and science, and receive fewer and lower-quality comments from teachers.