Lessons in reading…good ones

I woke up this morning a little smeary eyed after saying goodbye to my son’s reading tutor last night.  I expect there will be lots of sad tears in the next 2 weeks as we say goodbye to special friends and embark on our cross-country move.  But last night, I think those were tears of gratitude.

Amy started working with my son Logan about a year ago. At the end of second grade, Logan was diagnosed with a learning disability in reading called dyslexia. He was struggling to read even at a kindergarten level, a full 2 years behind his peers. He couldn’t spell and struggled to scratch out any legible words. The worst part was that he would regularly tell people he couldn’t read.

It was like he was already developing a habit of self-deprecating announcements.

He got zero’s on his spelling tests and pretended to read during independent reading time. He told me he thought he was stupid.

Prior to his diagnosis, I honestly wondered if maybe I just hadn’t read enough to him when he was little or perhaps the military move at the end of his kindergarten year had disrupted his learning process? What if I had spent too much time away from home because I worked?  I questioned what I had done wrong.

But truthfully, even after his diagnosis, I didn’t have a clear path forward.

Maybe it wasn’t my fault… but I also didn’t know how to help him.

I wanted him to catch up. I wanted him to have confidence. But most of all, I wanted him to have access to the whole world via books and stories.

Through a mutual friend, I was introduced to a tutor who specializes in dyslexia. So starting last June until last night, Amy met with Logan 3x a week for an hour and helped him learn a new method for decoding words.  This significant time commitment to reading, Logan’s least favorite thing, was not easy for him.

Yet, Amy had a magic with him. She pushed him, encouraged him and understood him. Even though many days I know he wished he was at the pool, riding bikes, or playing with friends, he kept working, kept progressing. After a full year, it clicked. He is still not at grade level, but he is reading. He is writing so much better and has a system he can apply to decoding new words. A few weeks ago he did a school project and I was so happy for him as he did most of his own research and confidently wrote the categories on the poster board. What she did for him was priceless. I am so grateful.

Thinking about Amy and her impact on our lives gives me energy and motivation. It can be really frustrating and scary to not know how to make progress. Sometimes we default to dwelling on our shortcomings or what deficiencies we have. Think about it… a year ago, I felt like a mom who didn’t teach reading well enough to her kid and had somehow failed. Logan called himself dumb because he couldn’t read and avoided situations in which he would have to. We were both unhappy with the status quo and needed help to move forward. The crappy things we were saying to ourselves were both hurtful, not completely accurate and certainly not helpful.

I hear these kinds of statements all the time from people who are frustrated with their bodies.

I don’t know how to cook….I am fat….I am not athletic….I don’t have willpower….I don’t know how to lose weight…I hate exercise…I’ve always been fat….My metabolism is slow…I have a sweet tooth…I tried that diet and it failed….I failed.

See how similar that is?? Frustration, self-deprecation, accepting current status.

We blame ourselves, our circumstances, our genetics…but all of that blame does absolutely nothing except make ourselves feel shitty and limit what is possible.

Sometimes I think simple life lessons transcend the types of challenges we face.

Reflecting on our experience with Amy highlighted some of those important lessons for me. Learning to read, getting in shape, losing weight, fighting bad habits, rehabbing an injury, or dealing with mental stress have some important similarities.


  •  Change started by removing isolation. I began talking about my frustration with family and friends, realized I was not alone and got pointed in the right direction. They encouraged me to request testing and ultimately a friend introduced us to Amy. I was not the only one struggling. We were not alone.

  • I needed an expert. I did not have the knowledge and skills required to teach Logan to read. I needed a guide and a good one. Logan had to do the work, but I wanted to go down the right path. I had tried to find the way on my own, it wasn’t working.

  • Amy was effective because Logan connected with her. She could encourage him on bad days, give him a break when he needed it and push him when he was ready. That human touch is irreplaceable. In any type of business, coaching or learning environment, an authentic human connection is the glue. Find someone or some place with the glue. If there is no glue, when a bad day comes, you will quit.

  • Progress took consistency and time. There was no shortcut. He had to do the work…every single week.

  • There is value in the journey. If you gave me the choice to rub a magic lamp and skip this past year of work for Logan and just have him read, I don’t think I would take it. He learned a lot about himself through this process. I have a feeling the work ethic, self-discovery and confidence he gained this year will pay off down the road.

I am grateful for Amy’s guidance and Logan’s journey. Luckily it isn’t totally over, he will continue to check in with her on the computer during 4th grade. Hopefully, these lessons are a good reminder for you as you tackle your challenges. They were a great reminder for me.