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When Should I Begin to Pay Attention to My Child’s Reading Struggles?

Home Blog When Should I Begin to Pay Attention to My Child’s Reading Struggles?

My child is struggling with reading and spelling. When should I begin to be concerned?

There are some questions to ask yourself –

  • Did my child struggle with sounds as they were developing language?  
    • Mix up the sounds in words?
  • Does my child struggle with spelling too?
    • Struggled to learn the sounds for letter of the alphabet?
  • Can my child read a new word well, or can they only read a word if they have seen it many times?
  • Does my child read very slowly?
  • Did one of the parents or other close family members struggle with reading, writing, or spelling?
My story begins with my daughter who was struggling somewhat with school.  I noticed that she did not seem to hear sounds well and that showed up in her spelling.  I thought it was a hearing problem, so I had her hearing checked by an audiologist.  But everything seemed fine.  Still, I knew something was different.  She certainly was smart!  I just couldn’t figure out why her spelling was off and why she didn’t seem to process sounds accurately sometimes.  I recalled some of the ways she’d pronounced words as a younger child, saying besghetti for spaghetti or aminal for animal.  Back then I thought it was cute.  I didn’t know that the difficulty my daughter was having, even as a classroom teacher with a strong background in reading, was due to a very common learning difference.  I didn’t learn about this challenge until taking a workshop at a conference I attended.  That very common learning difference was dyslexia- a learning difference 1 out of 5 individuals experiences.  In fact, this struggle runs in my family.  My grandfather never became a proficient reader or speller. When should you pay attention to your child’s difficulties with reading and/or spelling?   At the beginning of the struggle! So many parents, and at times teachers, wait until a child is struggling greatly before they begin to start digging into what is causing the challenge.  Most adults think that the child just isn’t trying hard enough.  If the child would just work harder at trying to read, write, or spell, they would improve.  Adults often think that the child is just not interested.  But, for most children that simply isn’t the case.  Just think if your colleagues or coworkers were all learning something new. Wouldn’t you be interested?  Wouldn’t you want to be learning about it too? Most children do not have a problem with interest.  In fact, they come to learning quite interested.  It is when they can’t succeed that they give up – or even dig in their heels to avoid going into that learning situation.  They may even pretend that they are sick to avoid the situation where they cannot succeed – no matter how hard they’ve tried. How long has it been since you’ve sat down to listen to your child or struggling teen read a grade level book or chapter of a book out loud?  It’s time. Have them read a book at grade level that they have not read before. Pay close attention.  It may be painful for you to listen.  Do it.  You’ll need to be looking at the print they are reading.
  • Are they able to read each word without guessing?
    • Or are they looking at the first letter or two and guessing at unknown words?
  • Do they pay attention to the punctuation?
    • Or do they read flying through the punctuation?
  • How is their pacing?  
  • Is the reading smooth with good intonation?
    • Or is it labored with a number of errors?
If you have answered yes to many of these questions, it is time to pursue help.  Children do not just catch up in their reading and writing skills if they are having struggles such as these.  That idea is a myth.

Learn more about dyslexia 

My next blogpost will highlight next steps to take if you have answered yes to many of the questions in this post.  I will leave you with this comforting thought.  When struggling readers and spellers get the appropriate help, they can become very proficient readers and writers.  I have seen this many, many times over the years!
Cheryl Anthony, MS Ed.
Dyslexia Consultant, Master Barton Tutor
Owner, Southern Arizona Educational Services