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Adoption Blog: Straight to Bunk Beds

For Older Child, International Adoptees Learning to Read in English Is Hard to Do

Reading is something I take for granted. I have always been a reader. I have a book going at all times and the the kids see me reading frequently.

My twelve-year-old bio son is currently in a reading frenzy for all things James Patterson.  He tears through the books in no time, sometimes stopping to read something for school between books. It is pretty common for him to drag a book wherever we go so that he can spend a few minutes reading in the car or even in a store if there is time.

None of this is put past our ten-year-old, internationally-adopted son (who joined our family 14 months ago). He sees everyone read, and wants desperately to know how to read as well. At bookstores and libraries he picks out stacks of books he wants to read. He will even sit on his own with a book checking out the pictures and scanning words for ten minutes at a time. But the books he picks up are always out of his (current) league.

He has been home with us for just over one year, so his reading is getting better, but it is not on par with his peers yet. He wants to be able to read the same chapter books that his friends at school are reading: Magic Treehouse, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dragon Slayers Academy, etc.

While I’m fine with him paging through books that are much past his ability, we also dedicate time every day to do some reading that is at his reading level. This is where things get complicated. Because he is ten. And the books that are at his level are not geared for ten-year-olds.

And while he desperately wants to know how to read, he really has no interest in the actual process of learning how to read.  English is indeed his second language, but he is also not the typical ESL student, as the rest of his family isn’t in the same boat.

Recently, I’ve been trying to incorporate the books he wants to read into the mix. Now, I search high and low for books I think are level appropriate. And I try to pick ones that are not super babyish. He reads the same three books to me each night for one week. After he reads to me, I read him one or two chapters of one of the books his peers are reading. So far, so good. He complains less, looks forward to hearing the chapter book, and progressively gets better at the books he is reading so by the end of the week he feels pretty successful.

He does lose the ability to select his own books to read each night, but overall, he is doing really well with the new strategy. It is definitely more time consuming for me as I am spending lots of time on the web looking for books I think will be good and adding them to my library queue. And occasionally we do get a dud book, although I can usually tell by paging through it briefly at the library if it is going to be a total bust.

Last week our reading list included the following:

  1. Chicken Said “Cluck” (This one was a little babyish, but the reading level was just right.)
  2. Orange Pear Apple Bear (This one was super easy for him, but he kind of liked it anyway (or at least liked having one he could get through really fast)).
  3. There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Fly Guy [He LOVES the Fly Guy series in general, the bonus is that all the books are at his current reading level.]
  4. Dragon Slayers Academy book one: New Kid at School (I’m reading this one aloud to him.)

The nice thing about all of these books is that he can actually read them aloud with very little assistance. There are certainly challenging words in each book, but most of them he can sound out with help. By the end of the week, he was reading all of the books without help or prompting. And I’m a big believer in giving him as many reading successes as humanly possible.

I’m always curious about how others who adopted older children have taught their children to read.  I’m sure there are techniques out there that would work wonders.  What has worked for your older kids?  My favorite places to find book ideas are, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Scholastic Books Book Wizard, and our local library site. Sometimes I also check specific author websites.

How about fellow AFC members, do you have any suggestions on other places I should be looking? Any favorite books your kids read that I could look into? Share in a comment.

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My son is not quite as old as your son (he is 7) so it isn’t as difficult to find age appropriate books. I can truly relate to the struggle to learn to read English for an older international adoptee. Something that has surprised me immensely is the amount of interest he takes in books with his own name in them. His reading teacher at school makes “books” for him. She types them out and prints them with simple clip art. I don’t know if your older son would be interested in something similar but knowing his interests, perhaps you could write some simple short stories at his reading level for him.

By Momof4boys on Monday, October 11, 2010 at 10:19 pm.

I really admire couples adapting a child and consider him as their own son. They just saved an angel who’s in need for care.
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By jamez on Wednesday, May 07, 2014 at 1:13 pm.

But help them, don’t ever see them as adoptees. They will learn to read English in future. Apart from language all that matters is love and trust. Please be careful about their living conditions. Please make sure they are in a good path of life.  quality equipment and spray

By annmaria890 on Wednesday, December 03, 2014 at 4:02 am.

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