Many of us learn to read in the first or second grade. But for some of Ranch Ehrlo’s youth, it’s not that easy.

A few weeks ago, in a “getting to know you” activity, third-grader Leslie* disclosed some very vulnerable information – he didn’t know how to read.

“We were sharing our strengths, weaknesses, and fears. He was just very open with the group that he didn’t know how to read and doesn’t know how to spell,” Leslie’s teacher Randee Patton said. “That took a lot of courage.” 

Leslie also faces delays in verbal language and writing.

“I set up an individualized program, based on his skills and abilities,” Randee said. “We do literacy every morning. The kids who read at a higher-grade level can work more independently – so I have my educational assistant doing group work and it allows me to work one-to-one with youth like Leslie.”

Through patience and repetition, Leslie soon had a huge breakthrough – he read an entire book to Randee.

To begin with it would be Randee reading the books to Leslie.

“I picked sight-word books, it’s called emergent reading,” Randee explained. “So I picked out some books with dogs because he likes dogs. We sat down, and I read the book, and he read it back to me – repetition.”

Soon, Leslie wanted to go first – to read the book to Randee using pictures to try and guess the words he wasn’t sure of.

When he successfully read the entire book, celebrations were had! Randee videoed Leslie’s reading so his group home could celebrate with him and shared the good news with his family, as well.

Randee hopes to have Leslie at a third-grade reading level by the end of the year.

“Just because kids come to us and can’t read, doesn’t mean we can’t teach them.”

*name changed