My daughter Caitlynn, now 14, was a bright and vivacious toddler and preschooler. While her vocabulary and sentence structure could rival an adult’s even at a young age, she had trouble with putting sounds together as early as preschool. She had difficulty tying her shoes and guessed when it came to identifying ‘right’ and ‘left’ even in dance class.
When Caitlynn entered kindergarten she was excited about school! She loved her kindergarten teacher! She was very engaged but her phonemic awareness and phonics ability never did improve. In first grade, I remember going to her open house and scanning the wall for her writing work. I found Caitlynn's writing was almost illegible and looked nothing like the work of her peers. Her words all ran together, spelling was almost incoherent, vowels were completely absent and her letter formation was immature. Her teacher assured me Caitlynn was bright and that she would catch up. She did recommend since she was having trouble with spacing and keeping her words on the line that we should see an eye doctor.
Caitlynn’s grandma took her to the eye doctor appointment. It was a disaster! My mom came home and said that Caitlynn was just silly, defiant the whole time and wouldn’t cooperate. This didn’t make sense! Caitlynn was always compliant with adults. I couldn’t believe it! When I took her back, I asked the doctor to not use the traditional letter charts (because identifying tricky letters gave her trouble) but instead the arrow charts and allow Caitlynn to point to the correct direction instead of saying ‘right’ and left’. That is when I found out that at the initial appointment, she had been mixing letters like b/d, m/w, p/q - and it was assumed she was joking around and purposely failing the test. She did NOT have a vision problem, she had a dyslexia problem (but I didn’t know that yet...)
At the beginning of second grade, Caitlynn continued to struggle with reading, math, writing, spelling... pretty much every subject in school. I was frustrated with her because her teacher reported that she was frequently avoiding tasks in class - going to the bathroom, sharpening her pencil, getting drinks of water - whatever she could do to avoid school work.
I'll never forget the day in 2nd grade that my 7 year-old Caitlynn came to me and said, “Mom I think I need a tutor. I can't read.” And, of course, my daughter being who she is, already had a plan in place. She knew that her kindergarten teacher did private tutoring after school. Her kindergarten teacher connected us to another teacher on campus that had training in the specialized reading program, Barton which is designed for dyslexic students.
Caitlynn started Barton in the 2nd grade, and I can tell you that it was absolutely the best thing that we have ever done! It has literally changed the entire course of her life. She has worked with her tutor twice a week every week since second grade. We saw progress in 3rd grade and by the end of 4th grade, she was at grade level. Even as a freshman in 2020 with online learning and COVID, she has a 4.0. I can honestly tell you our tutor and the Barton program was the best thing that I ever did for Caitlynn. My only regret is that it took a 7 year-old to figure out that she needed a tutor because I had no idea what to do or how to get help in our little rural town.
I started NorCal Reading Solutions to help parents like me help their children like Caitlynn. Every child deserves to read and feel successful. I'm here to change the lives of my students and families, just like Caitlynn’s tutor changed ours.