Although children do develop at different rates, attributing a struggling reader to immaturity is risky and usually unhelpful. Children, who are poor readers at the end of first grade, are most often still poor readers in fourth grade.
Early signs of reading problems should never be ignored or passed off as a developmental lag. It is never a good idea to “wait and see” if a child grows out it. The safest assumption is that early, direct teaching designed to help a struggling reader will minimize risks later on. If a child is taught the sounds, letters, words, and language comprehension skills necessary by the end of first grade, most of these children will avoid failure.
Reading intervention in kindergarten and first grade is more effective than intervention in fourth grade and older. This is because early intervention takes less time and resources to close the reading gap than using remediation strategies in reading later on. According to The National Institute of Child Health and Human Department, 90% of poor readers can increase reading skills to average reading levels with prevention and early intervention programs that combine instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, spelling, reading fluency, and reading comprehension provided by highly qualified and well-trained teachers. It takes four times as long to improve the skills of a struggling reader in fourth grade as it does to do so between mid-kindergarten and first grade. In other words, it takes two hours a day in fourth grade to have the same impact as thirty minutes a day in first grade. If intervention is not provided until nine years of age, approximately 75 to 88 % of these children will continue to have reading difficulties throughout high school and their adult lives.
Although there is a crucial window of opportunity (kindergarten to middle of first grade) parents need to know that it is never too late to help a struggling reader. Older children can be taught to read but the instruction may be harder to arrange, it will take more time, and it will require an intensive effort from the teacher, the student, and the parent.
On the whole, delayed intervention is costlier to everyone, including the child. These children will be more likely to develop confidence, enjoy reading, read more, and read better if they get off to the right start.
Karina Richland, M.A., is the Founder of PRIDE Learning Centers, located in Southern California. Ms. Richland is a certified reading and learning disability specialist and speaks frequently to parents, teachers, and professionals on learning differences. She is also the author of the PRIDE Reading Program, an Orton-Gillingham approach to teaching reading, writing and comprehension. You can visit the PRIDE Learning Center website at: www.pridelearningcenter.com
Many students require extra help in reading. When evaluating remedial reading programs for your child, be aware that not all programs are effective and many can be a waste of time. I made a list of 5 important questions to ask before enrolling your child in this extra reading help.
1. Will the reading help my child receives be provided by a trained teacher, paraprofessional or a parent volunteer?
In many schools parents are trained to work as parent volunteers and aids to help the students who are struggling. If your child has been diagnosed with a learning disability, or you suspect a more severe issue than the school is acknowledging, then you will probably want to decline any reading help that is not from a highly trained reading therapist or reading specialist. A child with true learning difficulties will need instruction delivered by an experienced expert using an effective method for sufficient time for the child to catch up to grade level.
2. What specific reading help will my child be receiving?
A child with a reading disability will need a multisensory, systematic, very structured and cumulative reading program with direct and explicit instruction in phonemic awareness and followed by synthetic and analytic phonics with lots of repetition and practice. It will need to integrate the teaching of listening, speaking, reading, spelling, vocabulary, fluency, handwriting, and written expression. Also, remedial programs differ from “mainstream” programs in the extent to which phonology and language structure are explicitly taught. For best results, avoid reading help that teaches your child the material in the same way he or she was taught the first time around. That didn’t work. Also avoid programs that allow too many kids in the group. The idea is that your child needs more individualized attention.
3. What kind of training in this reading help does the teacher delivering the instructions have?
Although the choice of reading program is important, the expertise and training of the teacher are even more critical. Attendance at a 2 day workshop is probably enough to gain an overview of an approach, but to be truly competent at using this approach, a teacher or therapist should have completed at least 20 – 30 hours of training as well as plenty of experience teaching the program.
4. What will my child miss in the classroom while he gets this reading help?
Being pulled out of class can be challenging for students, especially in the middle school years, since they might have to make up material that they miss in class and might receive lower grades in subjects in which they normally do well.
5. Can I come and watch a session?
Check out the teacher, the program and the other students. See if this is the right fit for your child and if the reading help is working and delivering results.
Learn more about the New PRIDE Reading Program
Karina Richland, M.A. is the Founder and Director of PRIDE Learning Centers, located in Southern California. 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
Once a child is able to decode and recognize words in print, it is crucial that they also gain an ability to read smoothly and at an efficient pace. Stumbling and hesitating over words undermines reading comprehension given that by the time the child gets to the end of a sentence he or she will have completely forgotten what was at the beginning of the sentence!
How do you measure reading fluency in your child?
- Ask the child to read a grade level passage that they have never seen or read before.
- Using a timer have him or her read this text for one minute.
- While reading the passage, tally the errors the child makes while reading.
- Stop the child after one minute. Count the number of words read in the minute and subtract any errors made by the child. For example: if he or she read 120 words in a minute and made five errors then the child’s reading fluency rate is 115.
- Use the chart below to determine if your child’s reading rate is on target.
Mean Words Correct Per Minute “Targets” for Average Students in Grades One through Eight
Johns, J. and Berglund, R. (2006). Fluency strategies and assessments. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishers.
How do you determine a child’s reading level to test for fluency?
Probably the easiest ways to determine if a book is at an appropriate reading level for your child is the Five Finger Rule. Have the child begin reading a chapter, and put down one finger each time he struggles with a word. If he reaches the end of the page before you get to five fingers, the book is written at a comfortable level for independent reading.
What can you do to increase and improve your child’s reading fluency?
The very best way is through practice, both through oral and silent reading.
One approach to practicing reading fluency is for the child to repeatedly read the same passage or text either with a parent or tutor three to four times. Rereading text gives the child multiple opportunities to read unfamiliar words. After repeated reading, those words become familiar. The child should practice rereading aloud texts that are reasonably easy for them and at their reading level and include words that the child already knows and can decode easily. A text is considered at reading level if the child can read it with 95% accuracy. This text should also be relatively short consisting of 50-200 words. First, the parent or teacher reads the text aloud to the student. Then the student reads the same passage to the adult or chorally with the adult. Finally, the student rereads the passage again independently.
Reading frequently will also improve reading fluency since reading is a skill that improves with practice. Children can improve their reading fluency by reading independently each day for at least 20 minutes. Again it is important that the child read a book or text that is at their grade level or slightly below their grade level. Children should be encouraged and allowed to read a book of their choice – even if this doesn’t involve classic novels for their independent reading. For gaining fluency, quantity is more important than quality. Whenever possible, use their interests to guide their reading choices and give them some power in making decisions about what to read.
Memorizing Dolch sight words is another method to improve reading fluency in children. By memorizing common words like “the”, “said”, “what”, “you”, the child will read texts and stories more fluently. Many of these words are in almost anything they read. Readers will have more experiences of success if they know these words. Dolch words are service words; they give meaning and direction, which are necessary for understanding sentences.
Model good reading for your children. Share what you read with them or read what they are reading. Have discussions and talk to them about the things you find important in what you read and why. Parents and teachers need to read themselves and read in front of their children and students. Children will imitate you and will be more likely to read and read well in a house and classroom filled with all kinds of interesting books, magazines and texts.
Karina Richland 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 reach her by email at email@example.com or visit the PRIDE Learning Center website at: www.pridelearningcenter.com
Do you worry that your child might have dyslexia? The warning signs are there. Your child is struggling with reading, writing and spelling. You might be using your intuition that something is wrong. What should you do?
Get a Diagnosis!
Diagnosis is the fundamental first step in successfully helping a child with dyslexia and the earlier, the better. It is never a good idea to wait or prolong testing. This will only put the child further behind. Children, who receive help early on, can catch up to their classmates. Later-identified children miss out on essential practice and miss out on an effective dyslexia remediation program during the crucial window of opportunity.
Practice Reading A Lot!
Reading fluency comes from repeatedly practicing the same words over and over again so that the brain eventually identifies the words rapidly. Poor readers receive the least amount of reading practice although they need it the most. This is mostly because they avoid reading, read less than their classmates, and as a result fall progressively behind their peers in reading skills. With a proper dyslexia remediation program the student will be able to practice reading intensively and often.
Catch-up with an Intensive Reading Remediation Program!
A child who has dyslexia that is not identified until the third grade or later is already thousands of unlearned words behind the other readers. This is a gap that might never get closed without an intensive reading remediation program at this point. The best intervention is prevention in kindergarten or remediation beginning in first grade.
Reading instruction for the child with dyslexia must be delivered with great intensity. Children diagnosed with dyslexia are behind in their reading levels and for them to catch up with their classmates will need to make a big leap forward or else they will remain behind. Optimally, a child who is struggling with reading should be taught one-on-one and should receive this specialized reading instruction 2-3 hours five days a week. A larger group or less time will greatly undermine the possibilities of success.
Make sure you enroll your child in the Right Program with the Right Teacher!
A child with dyslexia will take in and process information differently and needs to be taught by a specially trained teacher. The content must be a research-based scientifically proven method that is delivered with a sequential, systematic, cumulative and structured multisensory reading program. The Orton-Gillingham program, for example, is a perfect example of a reading program proven to work for children with dyslexia.
One of the most common errors that parents do is to prematurely withdraw the child from the instruction that seems to be working. A child who is reading accurately but not fluently at grade level still requires intensive reading instruction. A child with a reading disability who is not identified early may require as much as 100-200 hours of intensive instruction if they are going to close the reading gap. The longer that identification and effective reading instruction are delayed, the longer the child will require catching up. Fortunately, with the proper assistance and help, most students with dyslexia are able to learn to read and develop strategies to become successful readers.
Learn more about the New PRIDE Reading Program
Karina Richland, M.A. is the Founder 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 reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Pride Learning Center website at: www.pridelearningcenter.com
The average student learns between 2000 and 4000 new words each year. That is approximately 40-50 new words each week! Students with learning disabilities will learn less each year than their peers due to the struggles they face in reading, writing and memory processing while learning. With these learning challenges in mind, teachers and parents will need to provide a range of experiences with new vocabulary so that students with learning disabilities can learn just as many new words as their peers in meaningful ways.
Learning a new word can actually create an interest and an excitement in many students. The focus should be on providing a meaningful explanation of the new word with multiple examples provided by the teacher and parent.
Although many strategies are effective for students with varying abilities, the following methods work best:
1. Present the word in the context of the story or text from which the word was selected.
2. Ask students to repeat and write the word.
3. Provide a “student-friendly” explanation of the word by using every day language that the student can understand and connect with.
4. Personalize the word to the student that includes references to “you,” “something,” and “someone” to help the student make a personal connection with their own lives.
5. Have students create their own examples of the word.
6. Students will need to say and read the word repetitively to establish a link to its phonological representation.
Really learning and comprehending a vocabulary word requires frequent and repetitive exposure by hearing others using it, seeing it in print, and saying it aloud in a sentence. Students with learning disabilities will require ongoing exposure and use of new words to assure that they understand and retain the meaning and use of the words. It takes 12 encounters with a word to learn it well enough to improve reading comprehension!
Using Mnemonics or Key Word Strategies are a key method of assisting students with learning disabilities in memorizing the definitions of new words. Students with learning disabilities benefit from connections created by linking a familiar key word or image with a novel word. For example with the word ROCOCO (asymmetric ornamentation in art) a mnemonic might be: “Rococo you arrange and decorate coconuts in a row.”
Students with learning disabilities should also listen to audio books regularly. Audio books will help expand the student’s listening vocabulary. Later, if the student runs into the same language in print, they will be better able to decipher the word and its meaning by having already had the exposure to it beforehand.
Although the amount of words that students need to learn may seem daunting, promoting student engagement with text is the most important way to increase vocabulary, and most importantly, leads to increased reading comprehension. Simply put, the amount that students read is related to the number of words they know and, in turn, allows them to read and understand increasingly complex text.
Learn more about the New PRIDE Reading Program
Karina Richland, M.A. is the Founder 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. Visit the PRIDE Learning Center website at: www.pridelearningcenter.com