In January when I realized Max was falling behind in school and still couldn’t read the most basic of words I started making phone calls. I talked with everybody ranging from Max’s teacher to an academic diagnostician (yeah, I didn’t know they existed either). I called literacy clinics and psychologists and It was during one of these conversations that I was referred to “The Reading Ranch”.
“The Reading Ranch” is tucked up in a small building next to a home security office. Max and I walked in and found a very small waiting room with a brown leather loveseat on one wall and two chairs on the other. The walls were decorated with the appropriate western signs and art. After all, it is the Reading RANCH. Max and I barely had time to relax on the tiny couch when Ms. Kim burst into the room. Her blond hair towered over her small frame, she wore jeans with a western belt buckle and the southern accent to go along with it. She gently guided Max into a tiny classroom that was just big enough for him and Ms. Kim. Thirty minutes later Max emerged with a Popsicle and a smile. Ms. Kim invited me into a private room and gave me her assessment. With grand gestures, and a sweet twang in her voice she explained, “WELL, he’s VERY smart. He just needs some extra time with his basic phonemes. Don’t know about dyslexia but I would like to meet with him privately for the first couple of months so we can get him caught up with school.” Max and I established a date and time and left the Ranch.
I would find out later that Ms. Kim is no ordinary reading tutor. She has extensive experience in education and is in the process of completing her PhD dissertation in phonics. She believes in small classrooms with two students and one teacher. All of her students receive a lot of individual attention.
Every Tuesday Max would leave school early and we would make our weekly pilgrimage to the Reading Ranch. I would sit quietly in the waiting room while Max spent an hour, alone, with Ms. Kim. She would emerge and reassure me that Max was doing great and making progress. Max, being a boy, would say nothing.
And then last week as I was tucking Max into bed he asked if he could read a book to me. I complied and handed him the National Geographic book on sharks that he had picked out. He opened the book and with ease and speed he read straight through the book stopping only to point out interesting facts. I tried not to cry. He read it AND he understood it.
This woman, married to a bull rider and sportin’ cowboy boots has in less than 20 sessions turned my son into a reader. This woman has moved mountains. How do you thank somebody who sees your child not as a number but as a person? How do you show gratitude to somebody who every week told your child “he can” when he thought he couldn’t?
Max will continue at the Reading Ranch, at least for the foreseeable future. He has now moved on to advanced phonics and handwriting. However, it is his confidence and belief in himself that has made it all worthwhile.