Happy Cheetah Reading

“I Can’t Read”: Six Years In

My son has a cousin who is just twelve days older than he is. When the cousins get together a few times a year, they are inseparable, making up creative stories and enjoying elaborate make-believe worlds.

The cousin has not struggled with reading, and in some of our excursions, she would read the historical markers.

At one point, my son looked at me and said, almost under his breath, “I can’t read.”

This was one of those catch-my-breath-because-my-heart-is-hurting moments.

My son has been in tutoring for almost six years now. And he’s nowhere near being able to read a historical marker.

Back home from vacation, I wanted to give him a little bit of reading enjoyment. With the Happy Cheetah Reading System, Dr. Karen doesn’t expect children to really read much on their own until students are well into the final book. My son isn’t quite into the last book yet, and I wasn’t quite ready to jump back into the program. I wanted to know if I could see signs of progress, apart from working through the Happy Cheetah workbooks.

So I pulled out a few of his older brothers’ early readers.

But here’s the deal. Most books for beginning readers have appropriate plots for early elementary children. Which is great when the new readers are five or six years old, but not so fun at nearly eleven.

The first book I pulled out was met with grimaces and sighs.

The second day, my son admitted, “Mom, I really just don’t like this book.”

So I pulled out a Frog and Toad treasury.

Let me say right now: I love Frog and Toad. I always have. They are wonderful characters, with a sweet friendship and hilarious adventures. The muted illustrations perfectly complement the text.

They are also second-grade readers. And since my son was stuck at the kindergarten level for years, these books have always been beyond his reach.

A year ago, I would listen to him struggle to sound out words like “Tim” or “dog,” and think, Our journey to reading will never end. Even the Frog and Toad stories are an impossible dream.

So I was curious. My son and I have been working with the Happy Cheetah Reading System for about ten months now. How would he do?

The process that Dr. Karen recommends is that the parent reads the text first, so the student knows where the story is going. Then the student can either read the text. Or it’s totally fine for the instructor to read a single page — even half a page! — and the student read it afterwards.

So that’s what we did. I read “Spring,” where Toad doesn’t want to get up and Frog misses his friend so much, he uses an unexpected method to help rouse Toad.

Then I read a page, and my son read a page.

It wasn’t perfect. There were a few words my son didn’t recognize.

There were a few words — like on and the — that he absolutely shouldrecognize. When students miss obvious words like that, it’s a visual tracking issue.

Well, we know that his vision therapy isn’t done yet, so it’s not surprising that he continues to struggle some.

He also started to miss more words near the end — another classic sign of visual tracking difficulties.

But he read a Frog and Toad story. He did it!

We obviously have a ways to go.

But this is actual progress.

And I can say to my son, “You can read. Now we’re just going to keep working on increasing the list of words that you can read easily.”

It’s time for a celebration!

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