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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Second child syndrome? - How to teach a child to read

It took Mr. D and me awhile to admit that our younger son was different from his brother in so many ways, even though they share the same parents, by all means.We had thought Remi was standard, until his brother was born 27 months later.
Remi has been picking most things, if not everything, very quickly, since he was a mere infant.
The following list is some of things Remi has done quickly.
- rolled when he was 3 months old and walked at 10 months.
-  spoke a full sentence at 12 months.
- learned phonics and read 15-20 page books within two weeks, at the age of 4.
- spoke french sentences after attending French immersion class for three months.
- learned reading french without further help.
- At 7, he read 3-400 page chapter books such as Harry Potter in English and 3-40 page books in French.
Well, these are just a tip of the iceberg.
Consequently, we expected Remi to receive straight A.
When I found a B in this progress report last year, I had a hard time accepting it.
I told him very frankly that I didn't want to see anything less than A.
(But he brought another report card with a B :( 

On the contrary, Pablo was not only a high demanding infant and toddler,
he was not fast, or rather slow one! However, he is deceivingly cute, and I tend to be more flexible with him than with Remi, my older son.
As it was so easy to teach Remi how to read, with Hooked-on-phonics, we thought it wouldn't take long for Pablo either.
We started teaching Pablo (his real name is Nathan, but we call him Pablo) phonics before he turned 5, just as we did with his older brother.
Then, guess what?
It took him 2 months to read 3-letter words. :(
Mr. D became impatient, until he realized that Pablo didn't understand phonics or rhyme.
After 6 months of phonics, he was still reading only the words with no more than 4 or 5 letters.
He got often confused with b and d.
Mr. D started to suspect dislexia and became more patient with Pablo, in consequence.
Having done some research, I found that Pablo didn't show any sign of dislexia. And by that time I assumed the mission of making our younger son literate.
It was the end of 2011.
I also found out that Pablo understood the rules better than the phonics.
For example,
he didn't get the idea of simple rhymes like
Make, take, rake, wake.
Lime, Time, chime
Hole, pole, sole
, and etc.
But, he understood it more easily when I told him to pronounce a middle vowel of a word that ends with a consonnant and e, as its alphabet pronunciation,  e.g. make, take, wake, time, chime, hole, pole. (please mind there are exceptions such as give, or live)
I wish I could have taught him reading French first, since French reading is much easier and systematic than Enlgish reading.
English has too many exceptions, unlike French.
But, Pablo's French was and is not good enough to grasp that "orderliness" of French, yet.
I made him read at least one book of 10 pages everyday and made him write each of three words ten times every weekday.
He hated and still hates writing words.
But, I find it's so crucial for him to learn the spelling of the words by heart since he doesn't understand phonics.
It has been over 4 months and now he reads longer words too, but not everyhing though.
I told how slow my younger son was compared to my older son, to some of my colleagues.
A colleague of mine said it was the second child syndrome.
What? I'd never heard of such a thing!
But, according to my colleague, a second child is often slower (or d..m..r) than his/her older sibling, when they are younger.
I didn't know there exists such a syndrome.
But, it is very true in our household... :(
He stills writes 3 words everyday, and I think his reading improved a lot since he actually wrote words.
Thank goodness, he will be fully literate before September when he will be grade 1.
(Still a whole year later than his brother!
I know it's not constructive to compare kids.
But, you remember all those little details of each of your kids. So you recall those things automatically.)
Then, believe me, it will take me another hundred hours to teach him how to read French. :(
But, at least,
he is not that slow in math, so far.

He does the 3-digit addtions with carrying.
So far, he finds math easier than reading.
Hopefully he will find reading easy and fun.

He plays simple chess games too. It was rather an easy work, since he is more comfortable with rules. He learned the pieces and moves much quicker than I expected.

Am I expecting too much from a 5-year-old?
I am actually learning a patience and a different approaching method for each child...
Parenting is nevery easy, is it?
I hope to master it in the future, but it's very unlikely...

Did your second child have a "second child syndrome"?

Second Child Syndrome?


  1. Hello Colleen,

    I'm a fan of your blog! I'm shy so this is my first time leaving a comment.

    I am a second child as well and according to my parents, I was much like Pablo. Compared to my older sibling, I was just slower at everything than him (especially reading and speaking). I guess I was a sufferer of second child syndrome? But I turned out fine LOL

    I've worked with many many children and my conclusion is, they are all very different. Each child has special talent and it looks like Pablo's is mathematics. It's amazing how he fully grasped the idea of 3 digit addition at age 5! It's an amazing talent. You should be very proud :)

    1. Hi Bravomememe :)
      I am flattered. Thanks for reading my post and leaving a comment~

      Oh I'm sorry. Hope you are not offended by my post. I am glad to know that second children turn out as fine as first borns.

      I decided to be proud of Pablo about his math skills. Well, to be honest, we are even proud of his small performances now since we lowered our expectation. :( But, as you said, hopefully he will rise and shine :)

  2. Hello Colleen,

    I'm not offended at all! My dad used to make me write 10 words 20 times each every night! I used to hate it just like Pablo lol oh the old memories :) But thanks to my dad, I developed interest in languages so I majored in Linguistics in University :)

    I need to thank you for posting yummy recipes! I decided to make Chicken Milanese for my family on Mother's day. I needed an easy recipe that won't take me hours to prepare and thought Chicken Milanese would be perfect.

    Thank you so much! I'll let you know how it went :)


    1. I'm relieved to know that you were not offended.

      Your dad had insights! Hopefully Pablo will look back and cherish these moments. (I dream big, you see?)

      I also like chicken Milanese a lot. It's easy and hard to mess up. Hope everybody enjoys the nice meal. Thanks for your kind comments.