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5 ways to identify reading problems in children

 

Does your child have a specific reading problem? Speech Pathologist & Literacy Educator Vickie Leung explains 5 common reading problems that affect up to 13% of Australian children.

5 ways to identify reading problems in children

Children start developing their foundation literacy skills well before they are able to read or write independently. For your child, these skills include:

  • Talking
  • Vocabulary – your child’s bank of words and knowledge of the word meanings
  • Comprehension – your child’s understanding of stories
  • Print knowledge – such as being able to identify the alphabet
  • Sound awareness – knowing the sounds that make up words in English

For most children, learning to read can be quite natural and intuitive.

However, the 2014 NAPLAN National report reveals that up to 13.1% of Year 3 children in Australia seriously struggle with reading and writing.

In fact, children who achieve results in Band 1 or 2 of NAPLAN exams have reading skills that are at or below the national minimum standard.

Minimum standards for reading

If your child’s results show that their reading skills are below the national minimum standard, it means that your child has not reached the learning outcomes that are expected for their year. Your child is likely to require targeted intervention and is at risk of not progressing smoothly through school.

What about children who have ‘borderline’ skills?

Many parents are alarmed when they discover that students who are performing at or just above the minimum standard (often the bottom 40% of students) are often not eligible for extra help at school.

Sometimes, this is not because the child isn’t struggling, but because there are other students whose challenges are perceived to be greater.

If this sounds like your child, it’s possible that your child is one of the many students who require additional instruction to support them in achieving their full academic potential.

How can parents and teachers help?

Parents, preschool and primary teachers play an important role in providing a literacy rich environment to ensure academic success.

Many children’s literacy difficulties ‘fly under the radar’ of busy teachers, and so it’s important to identify reading difficulties in a child’s preschool and early school years.

If you can nip problems in the bud through intervention, you have a better chance to helping your child to avoid potential literacy problems when they start school.

5 reading problem red flags to look for

Children with reading difficulties often present with:

1. Slow and effortful reading

You’ll notice this if reading a book that has been pitched at their age level (for example, a phonic book for a 5 year old or a small chapter book for a child in Year 2) is unexpectedly laborious and a chore for your child.

2. Frequent reading errors

You’ll recognise this if your child:

  • Adds words – The tall lamp à then the tall and lamp
  • Replaces words – He rubbed his eyes à he rumbled his eyes
  • Deletes words – It’s just a possum à It’s a possum

Reading inaccuracies can cause problems with your child’s understanding of sentences as the meanings of the words are changed ( e.g. the cat sat vs. the cat sad)

3. Text tracking difficulties

As your child is reading, you may notice that they:

  • lose their place on the page,
  • skip lines,
  • read words back to front,
  • track the sentences from right to left and read from the bottom of the page to the top.

Not being able to read smoothly from left to right and top to bottom means that your child will use twice the amount of time to retrace their steps. This later leads to difficulties with comprehension as all of your child’s ‘brain power’ will be focused on tracking text, not on understanding the passage.

  1. Trouble understanding a story or passage
    After having read a large piece of text, your child should be able to discuss the main idea or summarise paragraphs with you. If your child is unable to answer simple who, what, where, when or why questions, it may indicate an underlying difficulty specifically to do with understanding text.
  1. Avoidance behaviours around reading
    If you notice that your child steers clear of opportunities for reading and does not get enjoyment from books (but loves being read to), it may reveal that reading is hard for them. Generally, children are more likely to avoid activities that they think they are not good at, so it is important to recognise their reluctance to read and to be very positive with their attempts (that is, providing praise when they try to read a book).

What to do if you are worried about your child’s reading problems?

These are only 5 of the many different ways to spot some specific reading problems in children, but a speech pathologist with experience in supporting children’s literacy can often identify many other causes that contribute to your child’s reading problems.

It is important to remember that every child presents with different characteristics and skill sets.

If you, as a parent, are able to recognise when your child is struggling, you are better able to give your child early and timely support.

If you have any concerns about your child’s reading skills, make an appointment to talk to your child’s school teacher, paediatrician or a Speech Pathologist as soon as possible.

Vickie Leung
Children’s Speech Pathologist
© 2015 Kids First Children’s Services

Get help for your child now

Kids First Children’s Services at Brookvale offers one to one reading and literacy support from highly qualified speech pathologists who are also literacy educators. Contact us on (02) 9938 5419, email us or use the form below to contact us

Reference:
NAPLAN results for 2014, Australian Curriculum Assessment Reporting Authority

 

© 2015 Kids First Children’s Services

 

 

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