If you suspect your child might be having reading difficulties in the primary grades, we suggest you begin by having your child's vision and hearing checked by professionals. Sometimes the problem is purely medical in origin, and fairly easy to resolve.
Then have a discussion with your child's teacher. What is the nature of the school reading program? Are there any alternatives available for your child? Does the school have a Reading Recovery program, the one early intervention that has been proven to work for children around the world. Some districts insist that their teacher use only a single approved reading program which may not suit your child. If so, there's little a classroom teacher can do but much that you can do at home.
Reading together is always the most powerful means of encouraging reading development – regardless of age. In grades 1 and 2, parents should be spending 30 minutes each day reading together with their children. Often this will be mom or dad reading aloud, but with sufficiently easy books your child should be able to take over some of the reading.
- Begin with asking your child to join or fill in repeated phrases: “Green eggs and ham …” (leave pause for your child to fill in)
- Go on to trade-a-page: “I'll read one page, you read the next page.”
- Or try: “I'll start the reading, then you keep going.”
- Or else: “I'd keep reading to you, but I'm getting a bit tired…”
When your child is reading aloud to you, avoid being critical. Not every mistake needs to be corrected. Only when you sense confusion in meaning should you prompt, “Maybe you should try that sentence again.” Remember the rules for helping:
If your child is stuck on a word:
- Wait five seconds so he can self-correct.
- Ask him to reread the sentence to see if the word pops into place.
- Ask him to tackle the word using letter clues, phonics or context clues.
- If all that fails, tell him the word and keep the reading going.
If your child is having trouble with more than five words on a page of text, then you should take over the reading – or change the book.
Remember that reading includes many things besides picture books. Your child may well want to spend reading time reading catalogs, comics and magazines. That's just fine. And when you're out on the street, always read the environmental print (billboards, street signs, etc.) out loud. The world is full of words – just point them out.
Your child will not become a reader just by watching Sesame Street , or using flash cards, or clicking on a computer game or electronic toy. He will become a reader if he's given the right books and spends lots of fun, cuddly reading time with mom and dad.