No bedtime story in our house, please!

This time last year Layla COULDN’T read and didn’t enjoy reading as it was a reminder that she was inferior to other peers and so books were a negative connotation. It was also a ‘forced’ activity to do with her one-to-one member of staff outside the classroom as they felt it would help her read. No fault of anyone; they wanted her to make progress, but it was the wrong method for Layla. It just reinforced what she WAS NOT ABLE to do, and this affected her self-esteem and self-confidence. This just shows the educational system is not inclusive or adaptable as the teacher’s hands are tied through no fault of theirs’s, by the curriculum, figures, and league tables set upon them by the government.

Forward a year later of home education and Layla loves reading books, including books that have no pictures. Her favourite author is Roald Dahl. This is massive progress. I don’t use the national curriculum or a tick box marking scheme to see how Layla is achieving. I use her to guide me, meaning how she reacts to the techniques, situations, books and how she is feeling on the day. This all plays a part in her self-esteem and self-confidence and mental well-being.

Phonics was not working so I chucked that out. Layla bought weekly comics and we had a variety of books that were pre-school age for Layla to choose from as they had photos in them as they helped her guess some of the words. We also read the Oxford Reading Tree books, Stage 1 where there were no words just photos so Layla could tell us what was happening. Don’t get me wrong, there was lots of resistance, shouting, and throwing in the beginning as books were a thing that evoked negative feelings for Layla based on her experiences of school. Peers laughing at her because they could read and she couldn’t. This is where therapeutic parenting comes into play. Looking at the behaviour as communication which was based on fear and so we had to respond to Layla’s emotional age using empathy and connection to guide her behaviour. (something I touched on briefly in my podcast with Jordy Deelight).

That cycle needed to be broken with positive experiences and so we read the books to Layla’s daily, sometimes she could only copy with one page. We had to work on her self-esteem and self-confidence in order to get to a place where books were seen as a friend, not the enemy. We also introduced audiobooks but also had the book in front of Layla so that she could look at the words while it was been read out to her. She loved this as she was also in control as she used to listen on her own and look at the words. She also watched movies based on books like Mr. Fantastic Mr. Fox and The BFG. This made her curious to read Roald Dahl's books. Also, we were reading words that Layla recognised when out for our walks like the Waitrose delivery van (mummy that is Waitrose) or the buses (mummy that’s the 102 bus). We would focus on one word that would come up regularly in the book (The Oxford reading tree was good for this) such as ‘the’ and we would say this says ‘the’ Layla and then when it came up on the next page, we would say can you remember this word, Layla. Don’t worry if you can’t. This helped build her self-confidence.

Layla was reading words originally because she recognised the words, but now she is reading new words and knowing what they are. She now loves reading and chooses what books she

wants to read and reads with one of us for about 30 mins before bedtime. The environment has to be quiet so that Layla can focus otherwise she gets distracted.

Layla learns when there is no pressure on her or expectations that she needs to be doing this or that because of her age. She needs to feel safe and secure knowing that if she makes a mistake, it’s ok as PRACTICE MAKES PROGRESS.

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