January 11, 2021
By Margie Gillis, Ed.D
Research suggests that half of all children have difficulty learning to read; in fact, for nearly one-third of kids, it is one of the most difficult tasks they will ever have to accomplish. These are the children whose early struggles are likely to result in a later diagnosis of dyslexia.
The good news is that studies indicate that 90% of children at risk for reading problems can become at least average readers by the second grade if they are given intensive training in kindergarten and first grade.
Who Is at Risk?
Young children are considered at risk for developing reading disabilities if they have difficulty with
- Rhyming and letter recognition
- Understanding that each word can be isolated from a stream of spoken words and represents a separate unit of meaning
- Distinguishing among sounds such as /d/ and /t/ or /b/ and /p/
- Hearing the endings of words
When Problems Exist
If your pre-k child has difficulty with any of the “red flag” areas above, talk to his teacher to see if she notices similar problems. Ask what can be done to give your child the extra practice time he may need to develop these skills.
If your child has already entered school and is not progressing in reading, it is possible that he has a learning disability. Some of the same difficulties might be evident with sound-symbol associations (ch says /ch/ as in chair; x says /ks/ as in box); repeating words with many syllables (hospitality, inevitable); and difficulty writing down words.
Students with reading disabilities need to be taught explicitly, by a trained professional, using a systematic, sequential, and cumulative reading program that incorporates the principles of Multisensory Structured Language instruction. The earlier that parents and teachers become aware of a child’s difficulty and provide appropriate help, the greater that child’s chances are of becoming a fluent reader.
Margie Gillis, Ed.D. is the President of Literacy How, an organization that trains teachers to use research-based reading methods in the classroom.