Does your third-grade child have trouble reading simple words and phrases? Is he uninterested in activities that involve reading? You can help him with these tips.
By Suchitra Seethapathy
Sumaira is a cheerful and naughty third-grader. She loves to play and help her teachers in classroom activities. However, when presented with any reading work or asked to take notes from the board, she tends to avoid it. Despite being an imaginative child, Sumaira refuses to read stories or texts. Is Sumaira simply being adamant or does she have trouble reading?
If this sounds similar to what your child is going through, it might be because she has reading disability. Learning to read is, in itself, a complex process involving visual and auditory skills. The child needs to understand basic alphabet principles, have phonological awareness and be able to decode words in order to read them. However, many children learn to overcome these difficulties by themselves or with the help of an adult. For some children though, reading difficulty persists even as they go through different grades and reading levels.
So, what is ‘reading disability’ and how is it different from reading difficulty?
Reading disability can be associated with dyslexia, a condition, where a child has persistent difficulties in learning to read. This often results from difficulties with the auditory processing of language and hinders accurate and fluent word-reading. This, in turn, results in problems with understanding the text or phrase that is to be read.
However, it is a common misconception that a person with dyslexia sees or writes letters and numbers backwards. Many children read the letters of the alphabet or numbers backwards and it is a natural step in the learning curve. This phenomenon happens with dyslexic children as well but it is not necessarily the only factor that contributes to its diagnosis. Many children have difficulty reading because of poor instruction received from teachers. They may also have negative experiences pertaining to reading. Some of the difficulties they may face are deficits in phonological awareness, processing speed or comprehension.
According to a recent study, ‘Helping children with reading difficulties: some things we have learned so far’, published by McArthur and Castles (2017) in the journal Science of Learning, ‘a substantial proportion of children struggle to learn to read. This not only impairs their academic achievement, but also increases their risk of social, emotional and mental health problems.’ Therefore, it is important for you to recognise your child’s need for an individualised intervention programme to overcome his difficulties in reading.
While most patterns of reading difficulty are easily recognised in classrooms and home, reading disability and other associated specific learning disabilities can only be diagnosed by a clinical psychologist in appropriate settings.
Dealing with your child having these difficulties can be agonising and stressful. However, the good news is that most difficulties can be overcome with the right remedial intervention, patience and a positive parenting attitude.
Most children eventually overcome their reading difficulties with the help of parents, school teachers, special educators and friends. Early development of reading skills is essential, and efforts should be made to identify children with reading disabilities and implement interventions at an early stage. A holistic approach to the understanding and intervention of learning problems could bring out marvelous results!
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