Parents often can see that their child is struggling with reading—especially if there is an older sibling or friend who seemed to, comparatively, breeze through the process. It is not always so clear, however, whether a child has a weakness that needs to be checked out, or if reading simply hasn’t “clicked” for them yet.
Students might avoid reading, or say they “are bad” at it, or even that they dislike it. While these concerns do need to be addressed and could be related to a real reading difficulty, there are specific reading behaviours that every parent can look out for.
Check out the following symptoms that are typical of a reading weakness. Not sure about one? During homework tonight, have your child read grade-level text aloud to you.
1. Sounding out words is difficult
Some students have a difficult time decoding words, even if they are phonetically accurate. They might add or omit sounds. They might, for example, read steam for stream.
2. Difficulty learning and retaining sight words
Many common words, like eye and thought “don’t play fair”— so recognising them is the only way to read them. And because they are common, they should be recognised quickly. A student who has difficulty may attempt to sound out common words, or may do a lot of guessing (e.g. purple for people).
3. Slow and laborious decoding skills
Phonics and phoneme awareness curricula are now commonplace in early education. While necessary, if over-emphasised, a struggling student can get mired down in sounding out every word—and not recognise the same word when they encounter it in the next paragraph.
4. Difficulty reading fluently in context
Some students may be able to sound out words but they are not able to put it all together on the page. This student’s reading is choppy; their lack of fluency might interfere with reading comprehension.
5. Poor spelling
Some students have difficulty including all of the needed phonemes (optnrty for opportunity); and some students can spell phonetically but cannot retain spelling patterns (opertunity for opportunity).
If your child is currently showing one or more of these signs, there may be a weakness that is affecting reading skills. For many students, a cause of reading difficulties is weak symbol imagery: the ability to visualise letters in words. Learn more about symbol imagery and solutions for reading difficulties here.