Struggling Readers

As I’m preparing for the upcoming homeschool year, I’m going to take a break from book reviews to touch on a related literary subject–struggling readers. I have one of these. In fact, I have two. The younger one is a typical boy who’d rather spend time outside and therefore commits way less than his full abilities to the school subjects at hand. As a result, he’s a moderately low reader. My older son is highly motivated, yet he’s extremely low–even after years of personalized, one-on-one instruction.

Though I hold a teaching degree, I do not have specific training in reading disabilities. Sometimes I feel completely overwhelmed. And it is a little embarrassing for a teacher/author to have a child two grades behind in language arts. I’m supposed to have all the answers, right? NOT! Occassionally, I wonder if I should let the state take over. They have trained professionals. They can diagnose disabilities. (I strongly suspect dyslexia.) But then I think, this child would never keep up in a regular classroom. He’d be labeled a “dumb kid” and would most likely fall through the cracks of an already overburdened system. So I plod on, celebrating each miniscule victory, and doing a lot of reading on the side.

Yeah, sometimes I feel like this guy! (Courtesy of PhotoXpress.)

Yeah, sometimes I feel like this guy! (Courtesy of PhotoXpress.)

I recently read Helping Children Overcome Learning Difficulties, by Jerome Rosner. It’s a bit dated, but it had some really good stuff in it. Like most of the books I read, it bolstered my confidence, assuring me that I am cut out for this job–the teaching tips and methods given are always instinctive to me. This particular book didn’t add anything new to my repertoire of reading activities, but it did recommend three ways to deal with a child with a learning disability that I found extremely helpful and reinforcing, because I’ve done them all at one time or another: wait, remediate, or accommodate.

Waiting means not progressing with a grade, subject, or concept until the child acquires the developmental skills required for mastery. Example one, story problems. My son couldn’t do them independently to save his life. So we’d work them out together. Then one day–a year or two later than it was “supposed” to happen, they just clicked. Example two, grammar. This requires abstract thinking. We put it off till he was ready and didn’t worry about what the “experts” said. For reading, however my son is way past the age of waiting. We need to move on to another option.

Remediation means to fix the problem. Relearn. Redo. But remediating in the standard classroom means that while the child is relearning, he’s not keeping up with his classmates on new information. In other words, he’s destined to fall behind. This book recommends not remediating with a child in third grade or beyond. I agree for subjects that don’t require systematic accumulation of skills, like health or history. But for reading? No way. In fact, we’ve been remediating for years. That’s why he’s so far behind. We’re reading and spelling at his level, not pressing on before he’s ready. It’s a slow process, but I see steady progress being made, especially when I reread the notes I’ve made along the way. And we’ll continue to remediate. I’ve got the time and the motivation to keep plodding along. And who can judge mastery and readiness better than me?

Along with remediation comes acccomodation. This means changing something in the child’s instruction so it departs from the standard. Well, isn’t homeschool the defintion of accommodation? Instructor, classroom, and curricula are all modified in the child’s interest. Within our homeschool framework, we’ve also modified our methods. For example, instead of using books to suppliment the concepts he’s learning, we often watch videos. As an auditory learner, it’s amazing what that child can glean from a documentary! We also do a LOT of hands on work (build models, create charts, etc.). And when written work is required, I can modify the rubric to target exactly the skills I expect mastered, and we can learn new skills incrementally. We also team read text books. In other words, by designing his schooling around his strenghts, I’m helping my son succeed in his courses instead of setting him up for failure.

In conclusion, I often get down when I think about just how slowly my son is progressing and just how much work it involves. Though it was not my original intention, he will probably homeschool all the way through graduation. That means I’ll have to research and advocate to make sure he has opportunities I can’t give him, like shop class, or sports teams, or admission to the county technical/skilled trades academy. Sometimes it’s plain overwhelming. Sometimes it feel hopeless and unending. I have to remind myself often that that’s not the case. If any of you are dealing with a similar situation, I’m hope this post reminds you of the same thing. Slow and steady (homeschool, in our case) really is in a child’s best interest.


Prince of Malorn (Annals of Alasia, 3), by Annie Douglass Lima

Prince of Malorn

MMGM is hosted each Monday on Shannon Messenger’s blog.

I came to this book in an unusual way. One of my children’s literature friends sort of “set me up” with this author. She recommended I read this book because the author and I write in a very similar literary style. I totally trust the judgment of my friend (hey, she likes MY work :)) so I accepted a copy and agreed to give it an honest review. And guess what? I was completely engrossed by the end of the prologue.

Korram, the crown prince of Malorn, is only months away from his 18th birthday. But he fears the regent who came to power when his father died will not want to stand down when he comes of age. In fact, he fears for his life. To protect himself, Korram travels to the Impassable Mountains to raise an army from the people group who lives there.

This book has everything I love: lovely, concise prose, unique word pictures, and highly developed characters as well as epic adventure and absolutely superb world-building. My favorite element is the meeting of these two very distinctive cultures. The Mountain Folk are nomadic, family-oriented, and dependent on the land and their goats for survival. The Lowlanders are a more traditional medieval kingdom. Their meeting brings about some well-thought-out and often funny results. But it also shows humanity at its finest, when relationships can be formed despite differences.

Squeaky AwardI did not learn this is the third book in the series until I was halfway done. The other two are interrelated, but they can be read independently with no problem. I loved the lands of Malorn and Alasia so much that I purchased books one and two and signed up for email notification for when book four comes out. Prince of Malorn earns my highest recommendation and a Bookworm Blather (my blog) Squeaky Award.

Grab a copy:

Book 1–Prince of Alasia
Book 2–In the Enemy’s Service
Book 3–Prince of Malorn

Jump Boys, by Alex Banks

MMGM is hosted each Monday on Shannon Messenger’s blog.

jump boysI featured this book back in January, but I’m recycling it because it never made MMGM. I mentioned it a few weeks ago when I featured The Swift, written by the same author, so I thought it was appropriate to bring this one back to the forefront.

Jump Boys is the first middle grade novel by young adult/new adult novelist, Ali Cross, aka, Alex Banks. I have to say, this is one of the most well-written indie books I’ve read. It holds its own against anything the big six put out.

Within, two brothers, Jayce and Valen Jump, are challenged by their horrible cousin to make a jump through space–a dangerous and illegal move for kids. You see, the earth was destroyed a generation ago, and those who escaped now live on a ship just off Jupiter. Upon leaving, the refugees jumped too far and lost their way in the multi-verse (multi-dimensional universe). They’re unable to return to earth. All efforts to figure the way back have failed. But when Jayce and Val take up the challenge, an error in their configuration lands them back on earth! It’s a horrible version of the planet they’ve heard about, and it’s inhabited by space pirates. When they intercept an SOS signal, they attempt a rescue, but their ship was damaged in the jump. Will they be able to return? And if they do, what consequences await them at home?

Alex has a real knack for smooth, readable prose and for getting this set of brothers into some real predicaments. The first quarter or so of the book leads up to the dare. It takes a while to develop, but it’s full of suspense. And then things really get rocking. I especially like the slang Alex creates (“molten,” “galaxy head”). It’s original and in keeping with the setting. Squeaky AwardAnd it also keeps the language in this one entirely appropriate for young readers.

Jump Boys does remind me tremendously of the Noah Zarc series. They have so much in common, they could almost overlap. But since I liked Noah as well as I liked Jump Boys, that’s fine with me.

If you like adventure, and you like outer space, try Jump Boys! It’s just .99!


Ali CrossAlex Banks doesn’t live on Planet Earth. Alex lives on the Prime Colony Ship orbiting Jupiter or on a pirate ship off the Nova Scotia coast, or on a world called Insulunda where the land masses shift and move like clouds in the sky. Wherever there are dreams to be charted like stars, or fun to be had just down the street . . . that’s where you’ll find Alex Banks.

(Alex Banks is a pen name for YA/NA author, Ali Cross)
Jump Boys Site | Blog Facebook Twitter |Email

The Award-Winning Blog, Bookworm Blather…

Yeah, that’s right. My blog won an award! Middle Shelf Magazine granted Bookworm Blather a Best of the Blogs Award in this month’s issue (page 51). The award honors blogs that “promote and exemplify the spirit of middle grade books.” If you haven’t heard of Middle Shelf yet, it’s a pretty cool online magazine that’s all about middle grade literature. I am quite impressed with it. Our Emblazon group even ran an advertizement in it this spring. And…the magazine’s free! Click on the image below to check it out.

Meanwhile, I’m going to proudly display this award on my sidebar. I’m very honored. Thanks to whoever nominated my blog!!

Best Blogs Badge

Independence Day for Authors and Readers

Michelle Isenhoff:

I’m glad I have friends who caught me up on the Amazon vs. Hachette dispute that developed this week while I was camping without internet. It’s one battle in the war Amazon is raging against the traditional book publishing establishment. In a nutshell, Amazon has leveled the playing field for ALL authors, something I greatly appreciate. If you’re interested in what’s happening, here’s a concise, insightful post by my friend and fellow author, Alan Tucker.

Originally posted on Our Great Escapes:

Photo by Jason Smith, Dreamstime Stock Photos

Photo by Jason Smith, Dreamstime Stock Photos

A petition was created last night/this morning on to help clear some of the air surrounding the Amazon vs. Hachette dispute and Amazon vs. the Big Publishers in general. Here’s the link so you can read it in full and sign if you feel it’s appropriate for you. I signed it to show support for my readers and also in support of letting all sides of this story see some light of day, not just the Hachette side.

I watched an hour and a half video last night from the New York Public Library regarding this increasingly nasty dispute. One of the participants (the man next to the moderator on the left side) writes The Passive Voice blog and expressed some of his opinions in finer detail in a post here (since the moderator kept feeling the need to cut him off)…

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Secret of Haunted Bog (Monster Moon, 2), by BBH McChiller

MMGM is hosted each Monday at Shannon Messenger’s blog.

haunted bogLast week I reviewed book one in the Monster Moon series. When we finished reading it for homeschool last fall, my boys begged me to buy the second one. So we set aside our scheduled book for two weeks and purchased The Secret of Haunted Bog. They were totally caught up in the continuing story and especially appreciated the scenes that featured Vlad the Pirate Rat, their favorite character. They can’t wait for book three, due out soon. Somehow, both of these books were overlooked on my blog schedule. I’m fixing that oversight! Here’s the review I left on Amazon last fall:

In this spooky adventure, AJ, Emily, and their friend Freddy are back for more fun. This time they find themselves in a haunted bog outside Chinatown. But is it really haunted, or could it be hiding something?

After devouring the first book in the series, my tween boys enthusiastically jumped into this one. They weren’t disappointed. The authors’ unique wit and haunting style continue in the same kid-pleasing manner. The setting is colorful and unique. The characters are old friends. And the plot kept my boys engaged and guessing. And this mom was pleased to find yet a second spine-tickler without any spiritual or gory negatives.

Grab a copy for 2.99.

The Curse at Zala Manor (Monstor Moon, 1) by BBH McChiller

MMGM is hosted each Monday on Shannon Messenger’s blog.

Zala manorMy boys loved this book! We read it out loud together for homeschool last Halloween (yeah, somehow I missed posting it on here) and they complained every time we had to stop. Our final day we just kept reading, covering the last 30% of the book all at once.

This is not literary fiction, so don’t expect it. But it is easy to read and very, very fun. It’s a plot-driven adventure that will keep 8- to 12-year-olds sprinting through the pages. Included within them are a freaky old manor with hidden passages and bricked-up rooms, an even freakier graveyard, riddles, an eccentric aunt who drives a pink hearse, a talking rat, and a 300-year-old pirate mystery. Oh yeah, and monsters. Lots of them. It’s a Halloween story, after all. And it’s a kid-pleaser.

It was also a mom-pleaser. While scary and silly aren’t my person favorites, I AM NOT A TWEEN. In this case, I was more concerned about the story diving into spiritual or gory content. It did neither. The zombie was a little gross, but it wasn’t disturbing. And witchcraft, happily, was simply not included in the story. Kudos to the authors on both accounts! It was also very readable–engaging, fluid, and well-paced.

In conclusion, this is a perfect Halloween story if you want suspense, monsters, and fun minus the negatives that come with the holiday. Based on this and my boys’ overwhelming enthusiasm, I rate it 5 stars. A wonderful read for tween boys.

Grab a Kindle copy of Zala Manor for just 1.99!

The authors have created a free AR-type (Accelerated Reading program) downloadable quiz.