Articles, Literacy, Reading

How to Identify Reading Difficulties

The signs listed below can be informative for parents who want to stay on top of their child’s reading and literacy development, as well as for those parents who suspect that there may be reasons for concern. This list will give you an idea of what to look for or to take note of.

Does your child…

  • have difficulty recognizing rhyming words?
  • struggle to identify words that start with the same sound?
  • struggle with associations between letters and their sounds?
  • still confuse vowel sounds?
  • have difficulty manipulating the sounds in words?
  • guess words based on the first letter rather than sounding them out?
  • leave out/skip words in a sentence?
  • add words that are not there?
  • struggle to recognize repeated words, sounding out the same words repeatedly?
  • constantly reread words or parts of a sentence even when they are familiar with the words or have read them correctly?
  • occasionally read words in reverse? E.g. ‘saw’ is read as ‘was’
  • make visual errors where they confuse letters such as b, d, v, w, f, t, m, u and n?
  • leave off the endings of some words? E.g. ‘games’ becomes ‘game’
  • add endings that are not there? E.g. ‘play’ becomes ‘playing’
  • struggle to segment the sounds in words? (Segment means to break words up into sounds = spelling)
  • struggle to blend the sounds in words? (Blending means to push the sounds together to form words = reading)
  • make no attempt to self-correct?
  • show signs of resisting or avoiding reading activities?
  • read excruciatingly slowly, one word at a time, sounding out each and every word to the point that all meaning in the sentence is lost?
  • read words in isolation with inappropriately long pauses between each word in a sentence?
  • making advanced phonic errors because they do not know the language code? E.g. Reads

The good news

The good news is that there is no need to panic if your child is showing signs of difficulty in learning to read. Most children can overcome any difficulties they experience with relative ease, especially if caught early on. With the right intervention – in the form of direct, systematic, explicit instruction – your child can be reading at grade level in a relatively short period of time. Responding early to your concerns is key to making sure that there is minimal disruption to your child’s education.

Reading in the Foundation Phase

It is worthwhile keeping in mind that ‘learning to read’ is one of the most important learning outcome of the Foundation Phase. From Grade 4 onwards, children need to be able to ‘read to learn’. Reading is the foundation for all other mainstream education. Therefore, if intervention is required it should ideally take place during the Foundation Phase. If a child can read with ease, every other aspect of their education journey is going to be easier for them. Ideally, intervention should take place in grade 1.

Reading in the Intersen Phase and above

For those parents with older children who still struggle, you’ll be pleased to know that they can still be helped to overcome their reading challenges. Intervention may take more time and a more effort than it would with a younger child, but they can be helped. It can be life-changing for a young person who struggles daily. The intervention process may take longer because with older children the reading therapist would most likely be dealing with additional issues such as a lack of motivation, lack of self-confidence, feelings of inadequacy, insecurity and hopelessness.

There is a knock-on effect of falling behind in reading, which leads to academic delays in other subjects. Learners who find reading difficult and who avoid reading based activities have weaker vocabulary and comprehensions skills, as they are exposed to significantly less text and have less repeated exposure to words in a variety of contexts. They often end up with a language deficit in comparison to their peers. This young person would then have to catch up in reading and literacy as well as all their other subjects, making their academic burden that much greater.

Conclusion

As I said earlier, it is always advisable to respond as early as possible to any signs of difficulty with learning to read. If your child is in grade 1, this is a good time to keep tabs on the development of their reading skills and if you have any doubts to put in place remedial intervention.

Further reading

The Science of Reading by Lianne Bantjes

The plight of older children who can’t (yet) read fluently by Lianne Bantjes

Literacy & Reading Intervention by Lianne Bantjes

What is Literacy? by Lianne Bantjes

To explore working with Lianne in Randburg / Sandton and other areas in Johannesburgcontact her to discuss how she can assist you.