Helping Hand

One of the benefits of homeschooling is that parents can tailor the curriculum and teaching methods towards the individual child’s needs.  In our case, we improved Son&Heir’s reading level, for instance, by imposing a strict three-hours-per-day reading regimen — topic or authors of his own choice, of course — and inside two years he went from a three-grades-below-average level to twelfth grade level, at age 15. (His favorite authors were Daphne du Maurier and E.L. Salvatore, and by age 17 he’d read their entire works respectively — an enormous feat in the case of Salvatore, whose works are prodigious).

For #2 Son, who was high-functioning autistic, we improved his reading ability by letting him watch any TV show he wanted, as long as sub-titles were turned on.  This was prompted by the fact that being autistic, he dreaded loud noises — he’d clap his hands over his ears and become near-catatonic — which meant that he would have to turn the TV sound way down to avoid being startled by dramatic increases in the soundtrack volume, but which resulted in him not being able to follow the dialogue and plot.  The sub-titles enabled him to follow the story, and it improved his reading level by a similar degree to Son&Heir’s.  (At age 17, he was yelling at the TV adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo  for being a travesty of the original plot;  I wasn’t even aware that he’d read the thing, but he had.)

So when I saw this, I nodded with approval:

…simply because I’d proven it to be true in my own experience as a homeschooler.

If you decide to do this, though, be aware that while comprehension and reading skills will improve, you have to work really hard on correct pronunciation, if like in #2 Son’s case you also turn down the TV volume (the spoken word teaches that, of course, so you have to be patient, thorough and non-judgmental in your constant correction).   I and the other family members still have to work on this when we talk to him, even though he’s now in his 30s.  (For those who’ve known him, you may suddenly feel very old;  sorry.)

But to improve reading skills at pretty much any age, closed captions can be your friend.