Here’s one for the books (pun intended)

My “significant other” seriously disliked reading as a child. He avoided it. Then in third grade, he discovered Mad Magazine. OMG! The door to reading exploded open for him. He grew up to be an educator and — wait for it — a librarian.

The door to reading can open for our kids with DS in the same way. Take Thomas, for instance…

Thomas and 911

I often tell this story at my Reading Workshops. Thomas came to me at 11, from Canada. Except for the names of his former Canadian classmates, he couldn’t read. And oh, how his mom wanted him to be able to read! I was determined to oblige.

The way in to Thomas’s reading heart was, I figured, through 911, which was Thomas’s obsession. He was always telling me that his mom was in the hospital (she wasn’t), and always talking about 911. My teaching philosophy and the premise of my book “Whole Child Reading” is “We go in through the heart and teach to the brain,” meaning that we teach reading initially with what the learner loves.

So 911 was it. I was prepared to create personal books about 911 until the cows came home if necessary. (Use the search box on this page for “personal books.”) I didn’t care how long it took; we were going to drive to reading success on the ambulance wheels of 911.


Fast forward 3 months

With a pile of Thomas’s personal books in front of us, plus a real  picture book on emergencies that his mom miraculously found and which I modified for Thomas (type “modified books” in the search box) so he could read it, we went to work as usual in his teaching session. After going through his personal 911 books, Thomas pointed to a stack of books in my reading program, nearby because I used them with my other students.

“Those!” he said.

I was flabbergasted. “Thomas, you want to read those?”


So I grabbed a few and “read” through them with him. “More!” he said.

More? You want to read more books?” 


Well, we were off and running. I felt like Annie Sullivan when Helen Keller had her breakthrough moment of connecting that w-a-t-e-r was the symbol for what was running over her hand from the water pump. It was a heady, wonderful moment!

A few weeks later, Thomas’s mom called me. “You’ll never believe what books Thomas brought home from the school library today. A book on Native Americans and another on volcanoes!!!”

911 or Mad Magazine or…

When I say, “Go in through the heart,” I mean that we use whatever floats their boat. If we don’t engage our learners from the outset, that all-essential element of their powerful wills won’t be on board, and it could be an uphill battle. But to see their eyes light up with enjoyment because what we’ve put in front of them is about something they love–that’s an epiphany.

Hoping that everyone gets to have that moment–



See “Whole Child Reading” on Amazon and This Site.





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