It’s hard to know exactly how your child is performing in literacy, and how to benchmark their progress. With children home-schooling, you currently have a rare opportunity to see them in action and with this guidance can gain a valuable insight into their reading competency.
By around the age of 7, all children should be literate and well able to read. In order to become literate, children must be taught how to read by teachers who are properly trained in the acquisition process. Though you could reasonably expect this to be the case in our schools, it unfortunately is not, which goes some way to explaining how and why Australian children now rank around 17th on the world scale where once they were ranked 3rd.
This article however, is not about why our ranking in Australia is so dismal or how it came to be. It’s about markers, which identify that your child may be at risk of reading failure. This is very important because the fact is that should your child be failing to acquire the necessary skills to become literate, it is likely that without the correct intervention, your child will continue to underachieve in this area. If you would like to read more information on this topic, check out our blog article on the subject https://icanreadsystem.com/why-the-final-australian-education-system-is-failing-your-child/
For the purpose of this article, we will assume that your child is 7 years or older and you have some concerns about his or her reading skills. Many children under the age of 7 years are not yet appropriately literate but the indicators of later reading failure are more subtle and as a parent or primary caregiver you should get your child assessed in order to determine if there are or will be problems in the future.
Assuming your child is 7 years or older, we can make some observations which should raise the red flag and you might consider doing some follow up. Please do not take on board anyone who says, “Oh, he’ll be right. He or she will come good later.” The evidence is that the child will not come good unless you take some positive action.
Let’s explore what observations you might make and what might be done to remedy them.
Children destined to become poor readers are hardly likely to enjoy reading, so make a note of how much your child actually reads without being pushed. If your child presents as quite competent in other indirectly related areas such as use of social media and communication, it may be that they just prefer not to read books. Try to avoid acting too concerned with your child, but time how long they might take to read something they themselves have picked up, and casually try to determine how much they comprehended. Should your child only read reluctantly, you may have some issues to address.
Today, with a lot of research identifying the importance of the relationship between sound and associated alphabetic symbols, you might like to note how easily your child associates sounds with the letters of the alphabet. Difficulty manipulating sounds in words is one of the hallmark characteristics of reading difficulties and can be seen at a young age. Your child might struggle with rhyming, word games, or recognizing words that start with the same sound so a few game-like exercises might indicate there are some issues to address.
For instance, if your child has difficulties playing the age-old game of ‘I Spy’, you might need to take a closer look. Make sure that you play the game by saying, “I spy with my little eye something beginning with the sound /cuh/,” but don’t say with the letter ‘c’. Choose objects represented by unambiguous first sounds like ‘cat‘ or ‘car’ but not ‘city’ which starts with the sound /ssss/ for example.
You can play a game by saying, “I’ll say 2 words which start with the same sound, like /cat and /car/ so what sound do they both start with?” The answer is /cuh/, not ‘c’ (the letter name).
You might like to check out our literacy guides, which you may find helpful for this purpose https://icanreadsystem.com/resources/
In short, a child likely to have reading delay or problems with acquisition will probably present with a number of issues, which are listed below. These indications may be summed up as negative. Negative, in that your child is unlikely to read much or will not enjoy reading if he or she is challenged in these ways. You may be advised to get an assessment if you are concerned. A good assessment will determine the root cause for your child’s issues. Our experience is that an early identification of possible impediments to becoming a good reader makes it much more probable that the issues can be rectified with the right intervention by a professional reading teacher. Bear in mind that your child may, in today’s world, just not want to read when he or she has an internet connected device to play with. It’s worth your while to find out.
Here is a list of the more common indicators of reading delay:
- Slow reading speed.
This indicates your child has issues with processing the text. They may be struggle to remember sight words rather than having the ability to decode the words and therefore be able to read words that are new to them.
- Transposing letters in words.
This is when your child mixes letters up, causing them to incorrectly ‘read’ certain words.
- Poor reading comprehension
Not only does the child have issues with articulating the words but also in understanding them.
- Difficulty identifying single words
If your child reads books they are familiar with, they begin to memorise the text. Try pointing our single words to see whether they are able to read them in isolation. Memorising text could mean your child is lacking decoding skills.
- Problems with spelling
Spelling issues are quite complex and linked to decoding ability. If your child has problems spelling relatively simple words, this indicates they have not acquired the phonemic skills required to correctly construct the words.
- Omission or substitution of words while reading
Look out for your child glossing over, or guessing challenging words, rather than sounding out and decoding them.
- Reversal of words while reading
If your child reverses some words, for example, the word ‘bad’ becomes ‘dab’. This usually happens when the first and last letters are similar, or mirror images of each other.
- Difficulty decoding
Your child struggles to decode words by breaking them down into syllables. They may even have difficulty with single letters and associating them with specific sounds.
- Limited sight word vocabulary
Sight words are subject to recall abilities, and there is a limit to the number of words a child can retain in his or her memory. This is why decoding skills are so important. Sight words do have a role to play, but should not form the basis of reading acquisition.
- Resistance to reading and lack of enjoyment
This is a big indicator of poor or weak reading skills. If reading is difficult for your child, it will always feel like a chore and they will resist.
While one or more of the above may be an indication of Dyslexia, it is probably unlikely, as this condition actually affects less than 5% of the population. You can read more about Dyslexia in our recent article https://icanreadsystem.com/is-your-child-dyslexic-we-dont-think-so/
In summary, people traditionally believed that learning how to read was something they ‘picked up’ as part of their overall education. Some children actually do pick up reading skills and there’s a reason they do. But those who cannot, need to have parents on their toes and taking notes, because – and keep this in mind – ‘it is unlikely that your child will grow out of any reading difficulty’ and poor literacy will prove to be a real hindrance for them in today’s world.
If you have concerns about your child’s reading abilities, please contact us for advice. We are passionate about early literacy and always happy to discuss any issues you may have, or answer any questions.
We continue to offer our free diagnostic assessment service via zoom, maintaining our face-to-face process as far as possible.