Kristian first came to me when he was 10 years old. His mum had called, asking me to help Kristian develop his reading skills. Upon meeting him for the first time, I realised he was no ordinary kid – he had dreams far beyond the average primary school child, and in fact was already well on his way to realising them: Kristian was already a champion go-kart racer, spending weeks at a stretch at go-Karting competitions around the world.
And so, initially, I thought the tardiness in his reading (as well as writing and spelling) development was merely due to the fact that he was missing a lot of schooling while on the global go-karting championship circuit. I wasn’t overly concerned, and naively believed that if I could at least instil a love of reading in him, he would advance quickly.
We spent our lessons working through the brilliantly graded Dr Seuss series of books – rereading his favourites (“The Diggingest Dog” and “A Fish out of Water”), while also working on his writing and spelling.
Unfortunately, lessons ceased 8 months later when he went on an extended trip to Italy for a competition and holiday with his dad.
Earlier this year, his concerned mum called, saying he was now in secondary school and really struggling with all aspects of literacy. Kristian returned for lessons, now voicing his own (mature) concern at his weakness in spelling, writing and reading. He said he didn’t really want to return for lessons, but knew he had to improve his literacy skills in order to become an F1 racing driver. Dr Seuss books were no longer suitable for this teenager, and so I decided to jump in the deep end and together we worked our was through “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” – a book which was age-appropriate, but far too difficult for him.
Reading it together was a bit like playing a duet, with him reading the easy words and me taking over the more challenging one. After a while, the flow of alternation became quite natural, until we were both reading words simultaneously.
However, after just a few lessons, and not being a remedial teacher, I realised that there were issues far greater than a lack of school attendance lurking and so I urged Kristian’s mum to get him assessed by a speech pathologist to investigate the underlying causes of his struggles not only with reading, but also with writing and spelling.
Tests were conducted and Kristian is now also in the very capable hands of an expert in the area he needs. He would like to continue coming to me for lessons (and to cuddle my dogs) when we move house, and has even said he’d “catch an Uber” to Bentleigh East. This was one of most heart-warming things a young (albeit initially defiant) student has ever said to me.