Between increasing academic demands, social pressures and home-life stresses, boys already face many obstacles to reading. Confronted with those issues while struggling with a reading disability, boys may lose more than their interest in reading. Reading disabilities affect their self-esteem, confidence and may even make them think they are stupid and cause them to avoid reading. These disabilities can manifest in a number of different forms.
Difficulty Decoding Words
Deficiencies with basic phonetic ability – decoding letters and combinations of letters (visuals) into sounds (audio) that make up words – is the root of many reading problems. Boys who suffer from this disorder have difficulty learning the association between letters and sounds. Without the foundation of phonics they will be unable to sound out words and reading will be very difficult for them. They might mispronounce or incorrectly identify words, thus making comprehension of what they read nearly impossible.
Difficulty Recognizing Words
Although trouble with word recognition is a mild disorder, it is also an inhibitor to reading fluency and comprehension. Boys who struggle with automatic recognition will often confuse words with similar letters and have trouble spelling words correctly from recall.
Working with students that struggle with reading, I observed that one of my students had trouble with automatic word recognition. In our first session he read slowly and softly, but he read the words correctly and sounded out the ones he did not know. I took the slowness for shyness since he was not yet comfortable with me. I usually have to encourage my students to sound out each syllable of word they do not know, so I was erroneously impressed.
Weeks later when my student’s shyness had faded, I observed something completely different. While reading at a faster pace, my student read “what” as “want” and “all” as “at” – along with other similar confusions – sentence after sentence. A little surprised, I wondered why he had regressed. Was my work was having the opposite affect than what I intended? I wrote a few of the words he had confused on a piece of paper and asked him to read them. One by one he read them all correctly. My student knew all the words, but he could not automatically recognize and process them at a fluent reading speed. The errors in recognition were most likely caused by the speed in which he was trying to read. He could not process and recognize the words at that pace.
There is an overlap between the reading disorders previously mentioned and Dyslexia. Children diagnosed as “dyslexic” can struggle with both decoding letter-sound connections and word recognition. Dyslexia is a language-based disability that affects more than just reading, it is also the inability to make connect words that are written with language that is spoken.
Boys suffering from Dyslexia have trouble reading, writing and expressing themselves verbally. They may also have poor concentration and confidence in school. Unfortunately these traits are often thought to be common to school-age boys and therefore many boys may not be diagnosed and given proper help as early as possible.
How to Help
It is crucial that boys who suffer with reading disorders get help as early as possible. Teachers and parents who recognize these reading deficits can help boys get the extra instructional support they need to overcome their reading challenges. Decoding skills can be taught with extra training. Word recognition can be increased with practice and consistent reading of appropriate texts; and the use of visuals and opportunities for hands-on experiences can enhance learning ability for boys with Dyslexia. With targeted learning strategies and positive consistent support, boys who struggle with reading disabilities can achieve success and even become fluent readers.