Intervene early! Reading disabilities are considered to be the most common learning disability and are often not diagnosed or treated until it is too late for easy recovery. A child with a reading disability that is not identified until the third grade or later is already years behind his or her classmates. This is a gap that must be closed if the child is ever to catch up with his or her peers. The best intervention is in kindergarten or remediation beginning in the first grade.
Teach phonics. Through phonics, children learn to associate sounds and form connections to word recognition and decoding skills needed for reading. Research clearly proves that phoneme awareness performance is a major predictor of long- term reading and spelling success. In fact, according to the International Reading Association, phonemic awareness skills in kindergarten and first grade appear to be the most important predictor of successful reading acquisition.
Teach spelling. Spelling and reading rely on the same mental representations of a word. The correlation between spelling and reading comprehension is high because both depend on proficiency with language. The more profoundly and methodically a student knows a word, the more likely he or she is to recognize it, read it, spell it, write it, and use it appropriately in speech and writing.
Teach writing. Start teaching writing in preschool and kindergarten. Learning to write engages the brain in repetition and memory on how letters and sounds reflect meaning, addresses numerous reading and cognitive skills, and helps activate both reading and spelling areas of the brain.
Teach handwriting. Technology is a fun writing tool for kids but it doesn’t engage the early reading brain in the same helpful way as learning to move the pencil across the page to use letters as images of sound. Brain scan studies show that early lessons in letter formation help activate and coordinate reading connections in the brain.
Repetition, repetition, repetition. The brain of a child feeds on repetition to make doing things such as reading automatic and fluent. Use repetition in the early grades for reading aloud, for rhyming, for matching letters with sounds, for writing alphabet letters, for spelling, for sounding out words, for automatic reading of sight words, for making meaning in print. Children thrive on it. So make it fun!
Don’t ever give up on your child. Keep the expectations of your child and their reading future high. We owe it to our children to show our support, give them every resource possible to help them and give them the skills necessary for learning and communicating throughout their education and their lives.
Karina Richland, M.A. is the Founder and Director of PRIDE Learning Centers, located in Los Angeles and Orange County. Ms. Richland is a certified reading and learning disability specialist. Ms. Richland speaks frequently to parents, teachers, and professionals on learning differences, and writes for several journals and publications. You can visit the PRIDE Learning Center website at: www.pridelearningcenter.com