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Education How to teach an adult how to read?
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Huey Offline
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How to teach an adult how to read?
My dad is almost fifty and doesn't know how to read. The most he's capable of is writing his own name. He was abandoned by his mother when he was kid and didn't have any relatives to take care of him so he never got a formal education. Honestly, I'm not sure how he managed to make it this far in life. To his credit, though, he's street smart and has no problem learning manual skills (He has worked a number of blue collar jobs over the years and he's currently an electrician; how, I don't know).

I didn't think much of his illiteracy for a while because I figured if he's made it to fifty without ever needing to know how to read, then hey, he's probably doing something right. However, several incidents in the past week, including one that almost made him lose his job, has made me realize otherwise. It's just something that can't be avoided.

I've suggested to him multiple times that he enroll in an adult literacy program but he always says no. He thinks it's too embarrassing. So the only other options are finding a tutor or teaching him myself. I've opted for the latter for now until I can find a qualified tutor. I have some tutoring experience with middle schoolers, but not with adults, so I don't even know where to begin. What resources do you guys recommend?

Much help would be appreciated. Thanks!
(This post was last modified: 09-26-2017 06:59 PM by Huey.)
09-26-2017 06:58 PM
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kinjutsu Offline
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RE: How to teach an adult how to read?
That's very unfortunate to hear.
If learning to read English as an adult is similar to learning to read other languages later in life i would suggest grabbing some kindergarten books and start from there.
Since he can already speak and understand english well enough the hard parts are over.
Also take a look at ESL (english as a second language) books and learning programs. They mostly target adults coming from a non-english speaking country.

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09-26-2017 08:04 PM
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Thomas the Rhymer Offline
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Post: #3
RE: How to teach an adult how to read?
I think the easiest is to ask him to spend 5 minutes a day on Memrise doing one of the alphabet courses, example:
https://www.memrise.com/course/444160/en...phabet-11/
It would probably be helpful to sit with him and explain each letter, and also let him do the quizzes and then explain where he goes wrong, while praising him for getting it right.

This should be supplemented by writing drills, so every day he should write out a letter on a full page, for example a full page of 'a',

Followed by a reading drill, going through a few pages of a magazine and marking all the 'a's for example.

Disclaimer: I have no teaching experience regarding adult literacy, I'm just brainstorming. I have taught myself foreign alphabets though (I can read the Greek alphabet, though I can't speak the language) and the above method is more or less how I learned it. I was trying to learn the Russian alphabet using the same method but I didn't have the time/energy to complete the project, but I made some progress before giving up.

Second disclaimer: I struggled to learn foreign alphabets, so I suspect your dad is going to struggle as well. Be patient and kind. It might take a month just to get through A and B.

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(This post was last modified: 09-27-2017 01:27 AM by Thomas the Rhymer.)
09-27-2017 01:26 AM
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The Beast1 Offline
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Post: #4
RE: How to teach an adult how to read?
Teach him the alphabet song first. A,b,c,d,e,f,g, and so on.

Break down the differences between vowels and consonents.

Then show him how different letters change the sounds of a word. Show him how to sound out words by what letters appear.

Once you've made it that far, buy some hooked on phonics and go over the easy stuff. It's not hard to learn to read, especially if he can speak already.

After a course with that, he should be able to read menus and the like. It'll take time for him to read at speed, but that takes practice. Comic books can help speed up the process to get him into novels.

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09-27-2017 09:39 AM
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Horus Offline
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RE: How to teach an adult how to read?
Apart from teaching the alphabet song, that's some excellent advice from Beast. Basic phonics is where you want to begin and there are many resources out there to help you.

Once he has mastered basic phonics, he will progress much more quickly when he can read "high frequency words" by sight. High frequency words are the words that are most commonly used in texts. Since so many words don't follow phonics rules, he should be able to immediately recognise these common words without having to spend time sounding them out.

Lists of these vary, but here is an example of the first 100 HFWs:
http://www.highfrequencywords.org/first-...rsive.html

At first progress will be slow, but the more he learns the easier it will becomes, especially as he begins to recongise these words in everyday life and they begin to have meaning to him. Start slowly, perhaps introducing ten words. In the beginning he will take the initial letter sounds as a cue to guess the words, but soon he will instantly recognise them without having to think about this. Once he's mastered them with 80% accuracy rate, introduce a few more.

You could make some mini flashcards using blank business cards to review with him and he can practise on his own, and add to the pile as he has mastered them. You could also make an adult version of this game where you practise by matching flashcards.




The more of these HFWs he can instantly recongnise, the more his fluency and confidence to read will increase.

So for now, phonics and high frequence words. Let us know it works out and I can advise you further from there.
09-27-2017 04:32 PM
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Horus Offline
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Post: #6
RE: How to teach an adult how to read?
Also good advice fom Thomas the Rhymer, especially the idea of circling letters in a magazine. Recognition of letters and their corresponding sounds is the first step before you begin writing the letters, because it is much easier to do than remembering how to write them. (I wouldn't recommend having him write out pages of letters though). Once he can accurately recognise letters then it will be much easier for him to write the letters.

Introduce letters gradually. Don't introduce them using the traditional alpabet sequence. Begin with s, a, t, p. With those letters you can already sound out several words - at, sat, tap, pat, sap etc. Once he's got that the next sounds are i, n, m, d. Now we can make even more words - map, nap, tip, mass etc.

The best sequence is:
  1. s a t p
  2. i n m d
  3. g o c k
  4. e u r
  5. h b f l
  6. j v w x
  7. y z qu

If you introduce letters in the traditional alphabetical order, you are more limited as to the different words you can make in the initial stages. This way you can begin to sound out and recognise many words immediately.

Lay letter cards out on a table. At first just ask him to find the sound you say. Focus on the phonics sound rather than the name of the letter - don't say "Find me the letter a" but rather say the sound, have him repeat the sound, ask him to find the card and repeat the sound once more.

Once he can do that, sound out a three letter consonant-vowel-consonant word, such as s-a-t, t-a-p etc. Say each sound clearly and have him repeat, making sure he is hearing each individual sound. Then ask him to find the three cards to make the word.

Once he can recognise the letters and phonics sounds, he can then progress to writing the sounds or three letter words you say.

Edit: I wrote these in the wrong order. This is the first step. Once he's got his, you can introduce the high frequence words I mentioned in the previous post.
(This post was last modified: 09-27-2017 05:00 PM by Horus.)
09-27-2017 04:57 PM
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debeguiled Offline
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RE: How to teach an adult how to read?
I would imagine that there are specific challenges teaching an older person to read just as there are learning new languages.

While the advice given in this thread makes sense, I would say that unless a forum member has experience with this situation specifically, I would seek out someone who makes a living teaching older people literacy.

I am sure they have faced the same problems time and time again, and have come up with solutions over time that we won't achieve by giving our best guesses.

If it were me, I would go to the teacher of the class your dad refuses to go to and ask them both how to teach an older person to read as well as if it is common for older people to feel too ashamed to go to a class like this.

The teacher might have solutions for both of these problems, and in the case of the latter, they might know what to do or to say to relieve your dad's understandable shame and allow him to come to class. Which means he would be in the hands of the experts, and you could just help him with homework instead of the whole thing.

It is possible this teacher may be aware of options for your dad you couldn't possibly know, like certain classes just for older people in the same boat, or even a support group. That's what I'd do.

Check with the experts first.

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(This post was last modified: 09-28-2017 02:14 PM by debeguiled.)
09-28-2017 02:11 PM
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Becon Offline
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Post: #8
RE: How to teach an adult how to read?
I found this to be a great site to teach kids, but don't know about adults. It has word lists of increasing difficulty, starting with "cat, hat, rat, bat, the".

http://www.tampareads.com/
09-28-2017 05:27 PM
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Suits Offline
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Post: #9
RE: How to teach an adult how to read?
There's a strong possibility that there's a learning disability lurking below the surface. Might be wise to see you can that diagnosed before formulating a learning plan.

Otherwise, find him a tutor. Preferably a man. Being taught by a family member might be too intimidating for a 50 year old man with even an ounce of pride.
09-28-2017 09:08 PM
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Tex Cruise Offline
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RE: How to teach an adult how to read?
I think you're going to find it difficult. I've come across a few men in their fifties who could read very little and in every case they were not at all interested in trying. They would even pretend they couldn't read things they actually could, so that someone else would read whatever it is they need to know to them, they're just so used to avoiding it.

They would ask me to read things for them (work directions or instructions or whatever) and I would refuse, just helping with words they got stuck on.

I was probably the only pain-in-the-ass who ever did this, everyone else would most likely have just read it to them.

They probably figured there was no point if they made it 50 years without ending up like poor Trumby...




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09-29-2017 05:58 AM
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RatInTheWoods Offline
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Post: #11
RE: How to teach an adult how to read?
Start with kids books, and scale up the age as progress is made.

This also works learning a foreign language.
09-29-2017 08:14 PM
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h3ltrsk3ltr Offline
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RE: How to teach an adult how to read?
get 'em a teacher who knows the difference between questions and statements.

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(This post was last modified: 09-29-2017 08:34 PM by h3ltrsk3ltr.)
09-29-2017 08:33 PM
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buja Offline
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RE: How to teach an adult how to read?
There must be a smart phone app (or two) that could scan writing and read it as audio.

Something like this could help him get by and not lose his job, I suppose.
10-01-2017 09:39 AM
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