Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Putting numbers on beginning readers’ eyes

How many children can’t use their eyes to read? How many children are labeled as non-readers when they are really non-see-ers?

My answer to this has always been, “about 30 percent” of first graders in regular education classrooms from middle-income families. 

This year, when I screened 87 first graders in October of 2012, there were closer to 60 percent.  Most of them, to be sure, were having trouble with tracking, that is, moving their eyes smoothly across their field of vision (or across a page of print). It worked out like this:

            Number of children screened                                 87                   100%
            Need to recheck tracking (37), teaming (17)          54                      60%

During this fall screening process, I also check to see where the children are in terms of their neurological development.  (If the eye screening is brisk and incomplete, the neurodevelopmental screening is even more superficial!)  The main thing I am looking for is cross-lateral patterning, which would show that their development is almost finished, or not

            Number of children screened                                 87                  100%
Number of children who can’t belly crawl             28                     32%
            Number of children who can’t skip                          9                     12%
            Number of children who can’t balance                  12                     13%

Now this was during the 2012-2013 school year, when first graders were not yet expected (according to the Common Core standards set out in the fall of 2012) to know how to read at the time of entering first grade.  Most of the literacy instruction in these classrooms, therefore, involved a great deal of reading leveled texts, working on phonics, learning to write letters and stories from left to right, and other fairly traditional practices in the teaching of reading.  Most of these 87 children were doing BrainDance every day as well.

In March, when I rechecked the ones who had had difficulty in October, the numbers were significantly reduced.  Of the 54 children who were having trouble tracking and teaming in October, 19 seemed to be tracking well in March, bringing their eyes into focus easily.  October’s 60% seem to have self-corrected to 35%, merely by living through those months and doing reading work.

But 35% is still way too many.