“My child is 7 years old and is not reading.”
“Help! My child is ten years old and is reading on a second grade level”.
“My 7th grader is making D’s and F’s. What can I do?”
Over the years, many parents have asked for my help with their children’s academic progress.
Time after time, the children who were falling behind in school were poor readers. They also did not have a good understanding of the relationship between sounds and letters.
Many ten-year-olds could tell me the sounds of only five of the twenty-six letters of the alphabet.
We always did what we had to do…start at the beginning, and develop awareness that words are made out of sounds, that each letter represents a sound, and that words and sentences make sense.
The time frame of when children begin to read lasts about five years. Some children may begin to read as young as four-and-a-half years and others as late as nine years.
The important thing is to be sure your child is in a language-enriched environment, learning the sounds of the letters and learning to hear the sounds in the words.
My experience is that children with minds that are more oriented to mathematical and spatial skills, tend to begin reading later.
If the child has been in an encouraging environment, by the time they are twelve, there is usually not a reading skill difference between the early and late reader.
If your child is not a fluent reader by age seven, he or she may be encountering some obstacles that need adult assistance.
For many young readers, visual memory has not completely formed on several letters.
They will often confuse the following letters:
d and b,
p, q and g,
r and n,
w and m,
t and f,
i and l,
u,h and n.
As you can quickly count, this confusion can involve over half the alphabet. No wonder it is frustrating for them to try and read. No wonder some kids just give up!
In cases of letter confusion, you must go back to the beginning and develop letter/sound recognition, for your young reader is trying to make sense of symbols before he is ready. Work on sound /letter recognition until he can correctly identify sixteen letters with their sounds. Then take the next step of introducing him to one word at a time with the letters he has mastered.
Another obstacle your child might encounter is not being able to read left to right.
Some children will start decoding a word from the right or in the middle. Their eye muscles may be weak and need practice in moving left to right. To help your child overcome this obstacle, use one-word vocabulary cards and place a sticker on his left hand to help him to remember to start on the left. Remind him that words make sense, and that each word he tries to read will be a word that is in his spoken vocabulary.
The next obstacle is not having the ability to see the spaces between the words.
To someone who is having this difficulty, a sentence looks like one huge, horrible word. Making booklets of three word phrases with a picture clue will help your child begin to see the spaces between the words. (See last week’s article, Steps to Reading.) Encourage your child to place a finger at the end of a word before starting to write the next word, so the spaces become more evident.
Reading from the top of the page, line by line, to the bottom, is another difficulty for the new reader.
Many times a young reader’s eye muscles are not developed enough to move left to right and back again to pick up the next line. Making small booklets with two lines of writing per page will help your beginning reader exercise her eyes and develop success with reading.
Difficulty picking out letter patterns is another obstacle.
Some young readers will have difficulty seeing phonograms, two or more letters that make a different sound, such as “sh”, “th”, “ch”, “oi”, “oa”, “oo”, and the vowel-consonant-silent “e” combination as in bike. Making lists of words with these letter combinations will help your reader develop a visual memory of these combinations. Going through the newspaper and looking for certain phonograms is also a fun activity.
There can be many obstacles to reading development, usually due to trying to jump a step developmentally. Every person’s brain develops at a different rate, but in observable developmental patterns. Reading success is dependent on a foundation of phonemic awareness and letter/sound recognition.
Remember, to assure reading success, start at the beginning by introducing each letter and its unique sound.
Be aware that your child might encounter developmental obstacles due to their unique brain development and that these obstacles might take some time to overcome. Always encourage your child and keep your home language enriched.
These are the keys for reading success.