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  • Writer's pictureJanay Neufeld

Warning Signs: How to Identify If Your Child Is Struggling With Reading

Reading is a vital skill that early elementary school-age children must master early on for success in school and life. However, reading is not a skill young children can pick up naturally, like speaking. No one is just born with the natural ability to read. It takes practice, repetition, and the learning of specific systematic skills. Unfortunately, some children have difficulty with reading and may not be able to express their struggles. As a parent, it is essential to watch for signs that your child has difficulty reading.


In this blog, I will cover common signs to look for that indicate your child is struggling with reading and what to do about it.


Why Is It Important to Identify the Signs of a Struggling Reader?

importance of early reading intervention

Noticing that your child is struggling is vital because research shows that early intervention is critical. Early reading intervention is associated with several positive outcomes, such as:

  • Academic success- Reading is such a vital skill to master to succeed in all subjects. Your child will do better at school if they are a proficient reader.

  • Increased self-confidence- Children know when they are lower than their peers in reading, which can significantly affect their confidence, leaving them with low self-esteem. I see it all the time when tutoring children in their reading. Sometimes after just the first session, their confidence goes up. It's essential to focus on what they do know, build them up, and gain confidence in their reading abilities.

  • Enhanced social competence- Reading helps children build their language skills, communication, problem-solving, self-awareness, and empathy. These skills are all critical for successful social interactions.

  • Improved reading comprehension- Identifying potential reading difficulties early on and can provide targeted instruction and support. Support can lead to improved reading comprehension because it can help students develop more vital foundational skills and can help them develop strategies for a better understanding of the text. Early intervention can also help to prevent reading difficulties from becoming more severe and can help to ensure that students have the skills they need for success in future classes.

  • Can help prevent a child from falling further behind- Early intervention programs focus on developing the skills necessary for successful reading, such as phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, phonics, and fluency. These programs also provide individualized instruction, providing extra practice, and providing additional resources. By providing these supports, early reading intervention can help children stay on track with their reading progress and prevent them from falling farther behind. It also reduces the likelihood of the child falling behind in the future.

Data shows that reading well by the end of the third grade is vital. Before third grade, teachers teach the foundations of reading and how to read. From fourth grade on, students are reading to learn. Therefore, if a child has not mastered reading before fourth grade, they will continue to fall further and further behind. Unfortunately, evidence shows that 75% of children who don't get reading help before nine years old continue to have reading difficulty throughout their entire schooling experience.


Statistics About The Importance of Reading Intervention Before Third Grade:


1. According to a report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, children who cannot read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than their classmates reading at grade level. (Source: https://www.aecf.org/resources/early-warning-why-reading-by-the-end-of-third-grade-matters/)


2. A National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) study found that students who are not reading proficiently by third grade are more likely to struggle in school, have lower academic achievement, and are less likely to graduate from high school. (Source: https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2016/2016144.pdf)



3. A study by the Center for Public Education found that students who are not reading proficiently by third grade are twice as likely to be placed in special education programs, and three times as likely to be suspended or expelled. (Source: https://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Main-Menu/Organizing-a-school/Early-literacy-Third-Grade-Reading-Gauge/Third-grade-reading-gauge-The-importance-of-reading-well-by-third-grade.html)


4. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, students who are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade are more likely to be unemployed than young adults. (Source: https://www.aecf.org/resources/early-warning-why-reading-by-the-end-of-third-grade-matters/)


Common Signs of Reading Difficulty

It is essential to observe your child's reading habits and to be aware of any warning signs that they may be struggling. If you notice any of these signs, it is essential to seek help immediately. Below is a list of some of the most important things to watch for.


Signs child may be struggling with reading
  1. Lack of enthusiasm for books and reading activities- is a big red flag. If your child was once enthusiastic about reading but now shows little interest and an aversion to reading, this may be a sign of difficulty. They may also avoid reading out loud because they are embarrassed or ashamed.

  2. Trouble Rhyming-

  3. Have a hard time remembering sight words-

  4. Difficulty with sounding out words-

  5. Lack of Fluency- fluency is just a fancy word for the speed at which your child reads. If your child's reading sounds slow and laborious, they may need help. I always tell my students that when they're reading aloud, their reading should sound as if they are talking to a friend. That's a good gauge of whether their fluency is strong or not.

  6. Poor comprehension skills- Your child may have a reading issue if they need help recalling information from the story, have difficulty re-telling a story, understanding what they have read, or following along with stories.

  7. Difficulty with understanding and using language- If your child is having trouble with spelling, pronunciation, or grammar, it can be a good indicator that they are struggling with reading. Additionally, if your child appears to be avoiding reading activities or expresses frustration with them, this is a sign of trouble.

  8. Behavioral issues- Poor readers often act out in class or become class clowns. This behavior can be a warning sign that your child is struggling. I saw this all the time when I taught in public school. A child will try to put attention on something else and make others laugh to avoid frustration, embarrassment, and low self-esteem. They may also feel shame for not being able to keep up with their classmates, leading to behavior outbursts.

What to Do If Your Child Has Difficulty Reading

  1. Talk to your child's teacher- It is essential to understand the expected reading level for your child's age and ensure they are on target. Ask their teacher for a list of things your child struggles with from their reading assessments and how you can work on these skills at home.

  2. Talk to your child's doctor- If you think your child might be behind in their development or could have a particular need that is making it more difficult for them to learn, mention it to your doctor. They can refer you to a psychologist or speech therapist if they think your child could benefit.

  3. Ask your child's school for an evaluation- It is free to have your child evaluated in a public school district, even if your doctor didn't give you a referral. Talk to your child's principal, teacher, or school psychologist to request an evaluation. A professional such as a school psychologist or speech-language pathologist will test your child. The type of tests they give will depend on your child's specific concerns, but they can check their language, IQ, motor skills, development, behavior, and achievement. This can be vital in finding a particular learning disability (like dyslexia or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), speech issues, special needs, reading disability, or other learning difficulties. If your child qualifies, they will set them up with an IEP (Individual Education Plan) where they might receive modifications, and the team will help your child reach their learning goals. Or a 504 plan is designated to children with a disability who might need behavioral or environmental support in the general ed classroom.

  4. Seek professional help- You can also seek help from an outside source like a reading tutor or online reading specialist like myself. These professionals can pinpoint your child's specific needs, build individualized lesson plans, provide extra help through the sequential reading order, and work with your child one-on-one to develop their reading skills. I have seen this process repeatedly help children go from hating to read to not wanting to put a book down once they crack the code to reading! Seeking help is vital in catching them up, as a tutor can meet your child exactly where they are, build off their strengths, help them gain confidence, and cater lessons to their interests.

In conclusion, paying close attention to your child's reading ability is essential. If they exhibit any warning signs, seek help from their teacher immediately. Often, parents feel like their child still needs support, even after speaking with the school or teacher. In that case, follow your gut and ensure you are providing your child with the help they deserve. Seeking professional help from someone like myself, an online reading specialist, can be vital to getting your child back on track to becoming a confident, skilled reader! Some kids need extra time, and that's ok! Don't let your child fall behind because they will struggle not only with school and reading but also with their confidence and self-esteem.


To get the tutoring process started today, click the button below to register for a FREE Reading Assessment with me!


About the Author


Janay Neufeld is an online reading specialist and confidence coach for kids. Her unique approach can help children worldwide increase their confidence and reading skills with positive mindset training, helping them reach their full potential!


She has her multiple-subject teaching credential, almost a decade of experience helping children learn to read, and a Master of the Arts in Education. She is also certified as a life coach for kids through Adventures in Wisdom.

Janay Wilkinson: Online reading tutor, reading specailist, and confidence coach for kids

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