This October is National Dyslexia Awareness Month, and PRIDE Learning Centers is helping to spread the word!
Did you know that Dyslexia is estimated to affect some 20-30 percent of our population? This means that more than 2 million school-age children in the United States are dyslexic! We are here to help.
What is Dyslexia?
Although children with dyslexia typically have average to above average intelligence, their dyslexia creates problems not only with reading, writing and spelling but also with speaking, thinking and listening. Often these academic problems can lead to emotional and self-esteem issues throughout their lives. Low self-esteem can lead to poor grades and under achievement. Dyslexic students are often considered lazy, rebellious or unmotivated. These misconceptions cause rejection, isolation, feelings of inferiority, and discouragement.
The central difficulty for dyslexic students is poor phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness is the ability to appreciate that spoken language is made up of sound segments (phonemes). In other words, a dyslexic student’s brain has trouble breaking a word down into its individual sounds and manipulating these sounds. For example, in a word with three sounds, a dyslexic might only perceive one or two.
Most researchers and teachers agree that developing phonemic awareness is the first step in learning to read. It cannot be skipped. When children begin to learn to read, they first must come to recognize that the word on the page has the same sound structure as the spoken word it represents. However, because dyslexics have difficulty recognizing the internal sound structure of the spoken word to begin with, it is very difficult for them to convert the letters of the alphabet into a phonetic code (decoding).
Although dyslexia can impair spelling and decoding abilities, it also seems to be associated with many strengths and talents. People with dyslexia often have significant strengths in areas controlled by the right side of the brain. These include artistic, athletic and mechanical gifts. Individuals with dyslexia tend to be very bright and creative thinkers. They have a knack for thinking, “outside-the-box.” Many dyslexics have strong 3-D visualization ability, musical talent, creative problem solving skills and intuitive people skills. Many are gifted in math, science, fine arts, journalism, and other creative fields.
Symptoms of Dyslexia
- Late talking, compared to other children
- Pronunciation problems, reversal of sounds in words (such as ‘aminal’ for ‘animal’ or ‘gabrage’ for ‘garbage’)
- Slow vocabulary growth, often unable to find the right word (takes a while to get the words out)
- Difficulty rhyming words
- Trouble learning numbers, the alphabet, days of the week
- Poor ability to follow directions or routines
- Does not understand what you say until you repeat it a few times
- Enjoys being read to but shows no interest in words or letters
- Has weak fine motor skills (in activities such as drawing, tying laces, cutting, and threading)
- Unstable pencil grip
- Slow to learn new skills, relies heavily on memorization
School Age Children
- Has good memory skills
- Has not shown a dominant handedness
- Seems extremely intelligent but weak in reading
- Reads a word on one page but doesn’t recognize it on the next page or the next day
- Confuses look alike letters like b and d, b and p, n and u, or m and w.
- Substitutes a word while reading that means the same thing but doesn’t look at all similar, like “trip” for “journey” or “mom” for “mother.”
- When reading leaves out or adds small words like “an, a, from, the, to, were, are and of.”
- Reading comprehension is poor because the child spends so much energy trying to figure out words.
- Might have problems tracking the words on the lines, or following them across the pages.
- Avoids reading as much as possible
- Writes illegibly
- Writes everything as one continuous sentence
- Does not understand the difference between a sentence and a fragment of a sentence
- Misspells many words
- Uses odd spacing between words. Might ignore margins completely and pack sentences together on the page instead of spreading them out
- Does not notice spelling errors
- Is easily distracted or has a short attention span
- Is disorganized
- Has difficulties making sense of instructions
- Fails to finish work on time
- Appears lazy, unmotivated, or frustrated
- Avoids reading and writing
- Guesses at words and skips small words
- Has difficulties with reading comprehension
- Does not do homework
- Might say that they are “dumb” or “couldn’t care less”
- Is humiliated
- Might hide the dyslexia by being defiant or using self-abusive behavior
- Avoids reading and writing
- Types letters in the wrong order
- Has difficulties filling out forms
- Mixes up numbers and dates
- Has low self-esteem
- Might be a high school dropout
- Holds a job below their potential and changes jobs frequently
The sooner a child with dyslexia is given proper instruction, particularly in the very early grades, the more likely it is that they will have fewer or milder difficulties later in life.
Older students or adults with dyslexia will need intensive tutoring in reading, writing and spelling using an Orton-Gillingham program. During this training, students will overcome many reading difficulties and learn strategies that will last a lifetime. Treatment will only “stick” if it is incorporated intensively and consistently over time.
Students who have severe dyslexia may need very intensive specialized tutoring to catch up and stay up with the rest of their class. This specialized tutoring helps dyslexic students become successful in reading, writing, spelling, grammar, and vocabulary. It also will help them with math, and word problems. Fortunately, with the proper assistance and help, most students with dyslexia are able to learn to read and develop strategies to become successful readers.
Karina Richland, M.A., developed the PRIDE Reading Program, an Orton-Gillingham program for struggling readers, based on her extensive experience working with children with learning differences over the past 30 years. She has been a teacher, educational consultant and the Executive Director of PRIDE Learning Centers in California. Please feel free to email her with any questions at email@example.com.
Learning to read is a gradual and sequential process that is developed with explicit instruction and exposure. In the late preschool years, children begin the reading process by listening to stories and chanting nursery rhymes so that they can hear the similarities and differences in the sounds of words. Through this process, the children begin to manipulate and understand sounds in spoken language and proceed by taking the next step of making up rhymes and words on their own.
As the children get older, they begin to learn the names of the letters in the alphabet and the different sounds each letter represents. Subsequently, they begin to write the letters and numbers that they already recognize by their shapes. Finally, the children associate the letters of the alphabet with the sounds of the words they use when they speak. At this point, they are on their way to learning to read!
The key to the entire reading process is phonological awareness. This is where a child identifies the different sounds that make words and associates these sounds with written words. A child cannot learn to read without this skill. In order to learn to read, children must be aware of phonemes. A phoneme is the smallest functional unit of sound. For example, the word ‘bench’ contains 4 different phonemes. They are ‘b’ ‘e’ ‘n’ and ‘ch.’
Some examples of phonological awareness tasks include:
1. Identifying rhymes – “Tell me all of the words you know that rhyme with the word BAT.”
2. Segmenting words into smaller units, such as syllables and sounds, by counting them. “How many sounds do you hear in the word CAKE?”
3. Blending separated sounds into words – “What word would we have if we blended these sounds together: /h/ /a/ /t/?”
4. Manipulating sounds in words by adding, deleting or substituting – “In the word LAND, change the /L/ to /B/.” “What word is left if you take the /H/ away from the word HAT?”
Through phonological awareness, children learn to associate sounds and create links to word recognition and decoding skills necessary for reading. Research clearly shows that phoneme awareness performance is a strong predictor of long- term reading and spelling success. In fact, according to the International Reading Association, phonemic awareness abilities in kindergarten (or in that age range) appear to be the best single predictor of successful reading acquisition.
Learn more about the New PRIDE Reading Program
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 visit the PRIDE Learning Center website at: www.pridelearningcenter.com
Winter break is finally here! Although we all deserve a vacation from the homework load and daily obligations, we don’t want to completely let our reading and writing skills slip during this winter vacation. Here is a very family-friendly list of activities you can try at home to keep those reading and writing skills sharp:
- Read for Pleasure. You have heard about a summer reading list – well how about a holiday reading list? Now is the perfect time for your child to catch up on all those books and magazines that they didn’t have time to read during the school year. Reading for pleasure builds vocabulary, expands your child’s mind intellectually and also helps your child become a better writer. So take a trip to your local library and let your kids choose some great books.
- Cook with your kids. Cooking is a great way for the family to spend fun and educational time together. Reading food labels and recipes can help your children improve their reading skills and learn the meanings of unfamiliar words.
- Write thank you letters. Encourage your child to write “thank you” letters for all of the holiday gifts they received from relatives and friends. Sit with your child and write your own notes at the same time.Writing letters is a heavy burden for children, so it might be a good idea to space the work and be supportive.
- Listen to audio books in the car while traveling. Spending time listening to books strengthens listening, concentration and imagination skills in children. It also gives them an opportunity to improve vocabulary and language skills. Take your child’s iPod along on car trips or while you are running errands during the holiday break.
- Go grocery shopping. Let your child carry the shopping list as you shop. They can read off the items you need. Label reading is also a great reading task for children. You can have them look up the ingredients on the labels or ask them to research which breakfast cereal has the least amount of sugar in it.
- Play board games. Here is your opportunity to expand your child’s mind while also having fun and spending time together. Games like Scrabble, Boggle and other word games are great for challenging the minds of kids. Some games require reading for clues or reading directions.
I hope that everyone enjoys the holiday break and that after those fabulous two weeks off your children will have had fun, spent quality time with the family, and kept their minds sharp and active.
Karina Richland, M.A., is the Managing Director of Pride Learning Centers, located in Los Angeles and Orange County. Ms. Richland is a reading and learning disability specialist and speaks frequently to parents, teachers, and professionals on learning differences. You can reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or 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
It is critical to identify a child’s reading problems before he or she fails. Even some children whom one might suspect do not need early assessment and monitoring should have it just the same. Some exceptionally bright children, for example, may learn to read early on and just skip over learning phonologic skills. These children memorize a lot of words very easily and quickly build a large reading vocabulary. Because these children are simply memorizing words without learning how to analyze them and break them apart, invariably there will come a point in time when they cannot decipher new, relatively long words, especially technical words, as in the sciences (Herbivore, Polynomial, Photosynthesis), or names of people or places in history or around the world (Picasso, Timbuktu, Kathmandu).
Without a foundation in phonological skills, these children will not have any strategies to deal with them. It is therefore best to ensure that all children’s basic phonologic skills are assessed right at the beginning and that they receive early and intensive instruction if necessary.
Here is a checklist to help you determine where your child is on the path to reading by the end of kindergarten.
- Knows that spoken words come apart and that letters represent these sounds.
- Easily names the letters of the alphabet, both uppercase and lowercase.
- Writes the letters of the alphabet.
- Can sound out the letters of the alphabet – both uppercase and lowercase.
- Can decode simple sound matches.
- Can decode simple 3 and 4 letter words.
- Uses invented spellings.
- Recognizes some common sight words.
- Knows about print conventions – reading from left to right, from the top of the page to the bottom.
- Has a growing vocabulary
- LOVES to read and looks forward to reading out loud.
First grade is one of the most important for a child on the road to reading. This is the crucial year where hopefully your child has broken the reading code. First grade builds on the foundation provided in kindergarten. Most children enter first grade ready to read. They leave first grade as “real readers.” Keep in mind that these major accomplishments don’t occur by chance; they are only made possible by well -structured and systematic reading instruction. If your child has the above-mentioned skills, then he or she is off to a running start in reading!
Learn more about the New PRIDE Reading Program
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 reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Pride Learning Center website at: www.pridelearningcenter.com