Catch Reading Trouble Early

Q: I think my son is having trouble learning to read. Do you have any advice on what we could do to help him?

A: School has been back in session for a while and now parents and teachers may start noticing that some students need extra help. Reading is a fundamental skill all children – and adults – need to master. People who have difficulty reading may struggle throughout their education and even on the job. That’s why it’s so important to help children succeed at reading.

There are several warning signs that children have reading trouble. Here’s a look at some skills students need to have at different ages:

By kindergarten, children should be able to:

  • Recognize rhyming and memorize nursery rhymes
  • Remember names of friends and peers
  • Recognize some letter shapes

By the end of first grade, they should know:

  • The alphabet corresponds to letter sounds
  • Be able to apply “phonics” to reading and spelling
  • Spell common sight words
  • Retell stories in sequence and make predictions
  • Read aloud with some fluency and comprehension

By the end of second grade, they should be able to:

  • Recall facts and details
  • Use phonics to sound out words including multi-syllable words
  • Spell correctly previously studied and commonly seen words

Reading problems can be treated and it’s best not to wait in getting a child help. Poor readers may suffer from low self-esteem issues. Surprisingly, how your brain hears and processes the sounds in words is the key, critical skill necessary to become a good strong reader.  A weakness in the ability to process these sounds (called auditory processing) is the major cause of reading difficulties.  The good news is that this skill is identifiable and trainable.  Talk with your child’s teacher about your concerns and see if she has any ideas on how to help. Another option would be to find a tutor or learning program to help your son improve his reading skills.

Don’t delay and I hope the problem will get better – the earlier you address reading problems, the better.

By Eileen Jekot, MD, a pediatrician with ThedaCare Physicians-Pediatrics in Neenah.