A Helpful Guide for Parents who are Concerned about Their Child's Early Reading SkillsAs the parent of a preschooler, you play an important role in your child's development. Preschoolers are continually gaining important knowledge and skills that will help them learn to read, write, and succeed in school when they get older. It is important that you observe your child carefully and regularly share your observations with teachers, caregivers and health care providers. Sharing information about skills and about possible concerns will avoid later frustration, if your child shows signs of struggle.
Each Child is Unique
It's likely that your child will learn to read, and over time will become a good reader. But we also know that children take different paths while learning to read. They develop early reading skills at different rates and through different kinds of experiences. For some children, learning to read may seem effortless. Others may struggle with the same kinds of learning that appears to come naturally to other children their age. So when should you be concerned?
Even when children develop differently, there is a typical or usual path of development that should guide your thinking. Many children struggle with learning at some point during their development. Most will catch up with a little bit of extra practice and individual attention. However, you are right to be concerned if your child appears to be having difficulties, especially if he or she is seems frustrated.
Parents are often the first ones to realize that their child may be having trouble. Sometimes teachers mention that they are concerned, and it's not unusual for pediatricians or health care providers to suggest that you "keep an eye" on some aspect of a child's development. Whether or not you agree with these warnings, the bottom line is: don't wait. Gather information that will help you make an informed decision, and take action as early as possible, because research has proven that earlier is better when it comes to providing help.
Early is Better
If your child is having difficulties learning, it's never too early to start looking for ways to help him or her experience success. Maybe you think your child should be able to do something that he or she is not yet doing. And maybe you think that, overall, your child's development is right on the mark. In either case, you can take the lead to find out if your child would benefit from some extra or specially targeted help. There are many people who share your goal of helping your child succeed. You can ask a teacher, principal, school nurse, neighbor, librarian, pediatrician or clergy person to point you in the right direction. Remember, with the right instruction and support, almost all children can become successful readers right from the start. Here's what you can do next.
Be an observer. Here are some things to watch out for as you observe your preschooler:
- Very small vocabulary and/or slow vocabulary growth.
- Often unable to find the right word and speaks in very short sentences.
- Even with age-appropriate instruction, struggles with learning the names of letters of the alphabet, matching letters to sounds, and rhyming.
- Difficulty remembering sequences such as numbers, alphabet, days of the week.
- Difficulty pronouncing simple words.
- Difficulty understanding simple directions and following routines.
- Difficulty learning colors and shapes.
- Extremely restless and easily distracted, compared to other children of the same age.
- Fine motor skills slow to develop. Has difficulty holding crayon or pencil, picking up small objects with fingers, copying basic shapes.
- Strong avoidance of certain activities, like storytelling and circle time.
It's best to watch your child in different settings at different times. Use a notebook or pad to write about what your child can and cannot do. Remember, you do not need to write down everything. Jot down notes about your child's strengths and problem areas that concern you.
And don't forget to ask your child some specific questions about things that are easy or hard for him or her to do. Don't stop there also ask your child for ideas about how to make learning easier and more fun!
Remember, most children exhibit one or more of these worrisome behaviors from time to time. However, if several of these behaviors persist over time, you should seek the advice of a qualified professional such as a teacher or other early education professional, doctor, nurse or social worker.