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How Do I Know if my Child Needs Reading Help?

by | Sep 30, 2019 | Children, Education, Family, Grades, Learning Disabilities, Parenting, Reading, School, SOL, Students, Study Skills, Tutoring | 0 comments

Often I talk with parents who are frustrated to find that their child is one, two, or even four or more grade levels below what would match up with their year in school. They usually express some version of the same frustration, “I wish I had known what to look for earlier” or “Why didn’t the teacher tell me more clearly and sooner that my child was struggling with reading?”.

It is difficult for parents to know how their child compares to peers and how their child’s performance stacks up against what is expected at that grade level. This is especially true when a student is an only child or the first child to enter school. In addition, reading difficulties tend to run in families, so it can be difficult to determine where a child should be by a certain grade level if their siblings have also struggled to meet those targets.

Additionally, kids develop reading readiness at different ages. It can be hard to know whether a child is truly struggling or if developmentally, they are just not quite ready yet. So how do you know if your child needs reading help outside of school? First, it is a good idea to communicate frequently with their teacher and know exactly where they are with their reading skills and reading level. Teachers are usually required to keep very detailed data but that data does not always make its way home. Second, regardless of their age, read frequently with your child. Here are five things to observe while your child reads that may indicate a reading issue:

Does Not Know Letter Names and Basic Sounds

If your student is in first grade or beyond and they can not name and write all of the letters and tell an accurate sound for each letter, this should be a red flag. It may mean that they have not had enough exposure to direct phonics instruction. It could also be an early sign of a learning issue.

Difficulty Sounding Out Words and/or Poor Spelling

Students who do not understand the relationship between letters or letter combinations and sounds have difficulty sounding out unfamiliar words. If a student is in 2nd or 3rd grade and has difficulty sounding out basic words, even those that follow the rules like “ship”, this could be a sign of a reading issue. If your student is in upper elementary or middle school, they should be aware of the many different rules to figure out a variety of multisyllabic words like “reptile” or “indicate”. If you notice that instead of reading the word accurately, they struggle with each new word and eventually guess, read the sounds out of order, or just read some sounds and not others, this may be a sign that there is a reading issue.

Along with this, some students demonstrate poor spelling, even of words that follow predictable patterns. You may notice that they have difficulty identifying all of the needed word parts, leaving out vowels or syllables. You may also notice that they spell phonetically, writing letters to match with exactly how the word sounds. If a student is only able to read or spell by using a strategy — for example, they can only read and spell memorized words or they can only read new words by using context clues or pictures, then this can also be a sign that there is a larger issue. I have noticed that students with decoding issues often have many more whole words memorized than other students, but when they get to a word that is not memorized, they have no idea what to do.
Strategies help students to become better readers, but they should not limit a reader or become a crutch.

Has a Hard Time Learning and Retaining Sight Words

In early elementary, students memorize words that do not follow the rules but occur frequently like “people” and “what”. These are called “sight words” or sometimes “high-frequency words”. Dolch and Fry are two common sight word lists. You can look up the words that a student is supposed to learn at each grade or ask your child’s teacher which words they have learned so far. If your child is skipping, substituting other words, or trying to sound out many of the sight words already taught in their grade or previous grades, there could be an issue.

Reads Fluently but Has No Clue What They Read

Sometimes students are able to decode words and their reading sounds fine. However, when they reach the end of a story or passage, they have no idea what the text was about. Reading is not a very useful skill without the ability to make meaning out of what you have read. Just because you can recognize a word and pronounce it does not mean that you understand the word. If a student is having trouble with comprehension, one-on-one instruction is recommended to teach thinking and metacognitive strategies, boost vocabulary, and improve overall understanding of language structure (grammar) and the ability to comprehend oral and written language.

Your Child Complains that They Don’t Like to Read

Most of the time, when a child doesn’t like to read or they tell you that “reading is boring”, it is because they are actually having difficulty with reading. No one likes to do something for an extended period of time that is so hard that they feel there is no way to succeed. If reading is extremely laborious, students get discouraged and do not show a willingness to read. It may be difficult because they are having to sound out every word but then forget the word again by the next time they see it, or it may be they don’t know many common sight words. They also could be having difficulty making meaning out of the text.

The bottom line is, if a student is frustrated with reading to the point that it is causing them to dislike reading, display anxiety, have behavior issues, or avoid school or reading in general, then it is wise to seek out assistance. Specialized reading instruction can be helpful to students who are having trouble with basic reading skills, those who need structured reading instruction and practice, and students who are having difficulty understanding what they read. Since reading is one of the most fundamental skills for success academically and in life, it is important to address any suspected reading deficits as soon as they are discovered and before they become a larger issue. With careful instruction, most students can make quick progress towards becoming a better reader. Many students, even those without a diagnosed learning issue, benefit from explicit reading instruction provided in a smaller group setting or one-on-one.

-Nina Parrish, M.Ed.
Owner | Parrish Learning Zone, LLC

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                                       ~Nina

Nina Parrish, M. Ed.

Nina Parrish, M. Ed.

Co-Owner and Director of Education

Proud mom of two adorable girls. Teacher who has developed an education business that started at a kitchen table and has grown into a thriving small business... Click here to Learn more about Nina.

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Pam Cantrell Burton
Pam Cantrell Burton
2020-10-14T16:15:51+0000
Parrish Learning Zone helped my daughter with on-line SAT and college essay preparation. She not only scored in the top 90 percentile on the SAT after working with Lauren Cannavo, she especially benefited from the tutoring she received for her admission essays. My daughter was accepted at Notre Dame, UVA, William and Mary, and received scholarships to George Washington University and the University of Alabama. She was initially deferred at the University of Chicago and waitlisted at University of Michigan and Emory University. She eventually chose not to remain on the waitlists and committed to UVA.Lauren also advised our daughter regarding her submission of a 20 page essay on community service for DECA, a high school business club. Our daughter, along with her partner, won second place in her category at the DECA state competitions in 2019 and 2020, and received second place at the DECA international competition in 2019.Lauren was not only a top-notch professional, she really cared about our daughter and was so pleased about her accomplishments. We are so very grateful to her and Parrish Learning Zone.
Marijayne Kruus
Marijayne Kruus
2020-05-11T21:51:37+0000
My daughter has a math learning disability and hated math. We started working with Nina Parrish and stuck with it for several months. Her grades have improved, but more importantly, so has her self confidence. She now loves going to work on math and will even work on it at home by herself. We are grateful for Parrish Learning Zone!
Laura Ellis
Laura Ellis
2018-12-14T14:36:43+0000
Mr. Chaves is an extremely gifted chemistry teacher. It's such a difficult subject--my son was drowning by the time we found PLZ. This was truly a last ditch effort on our part. Mr. Chaves was able to turn that ship around after only 4 lessons and my son passed the SOL! He was able to distill difficult concepts in a way that made them comprehensible and he was patient and kind and gave my son the confidence to succeed. His actual eacher expressed surprise and made a point of telling him he didn't know how he did it but he was impressed. It takes a gifted teacher to get results like that.I only wish we'd found PLZ and Mr. Chaves in the beginning of the school year.
Wendy Zelazny
Wendy Zelazny
2018-06-08T02:05:15+0000
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Anne Kater Reeves
Anne Kater Reeves
2018-06-07T22:46:05+0000
I highly recommend Parrish Learning Zone. My daughter was able to achieve the SAT score she was aiming for with the help of her Math (Mr. James Slane) and English (Mrs. Lauren Cannavo) tutors. Not only did they help her with practice tests but they also boosted her confidence in taking the SAT. The owners (Nina and Jay) were always prompt in answering my emails. They are very accommodating and worked around my daughter’s schedule (thank you Shiela for all your help in finding available dates for my daughter to meet with her tutors). Thank you Parrish Learning Zone for helping my daughter achieve her goal!
Beth Yankovich
Beth Yankovich
2018-03-23T20:29:18+0000
I can't say enough good things about Parrish Learning Zone. My son has historically suffered from low reading comprehension. I felt he needed a little extra help so I contacted Parrish Learning Zone. The owners at Parrish matched my son with the perfect tutor for him, they developed a rapport almost immediately. He is now in 8th grade and doing well in all his classes. My son is very active in school sports and the staff at Parrish are always very accommodating. They always reschedule with no problems. My son even likes to go early to chat with Sheila.
Beth Kent
Beth Kent
2017-11-08T18:59:11+0000
Awesome! Very structured and student focused - they identified the areas of weakness and turned those into areas of strength in a very short amount of time. I loved the communication from the tutor and the company. I received a specific report of my child's tutoring session including improvements and areas that needed continued work. I received reminders of upcoming tutor sessions - which I needed!! I felt the individual attention and service was worth every penny AND found the prices to be much more reasonable that other tutors in the area. I would HIGHLY recommend Parrish Learning Zone to any parent that needs to find highly competent tutoring help for their child. Parrish is simply the best!
Michele Hiltbrunner Freemyers
Michele Hiltbrunner Freemyers
2017-03-14T15:53:50+0000
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Tammy Elms Mosco
Tammy Elms Mosco
2016-06-02T12:20:59+0000
SAT Prep Course with Parish Learning is definitely a worthwhile invest !!...My son's scores improved over 200 plus points!!
Janice Boles
Janice Boles
2014-12-02T22:34:32+0000
I am extremely thankful to Parrish Learning Zone. I have a son that is a freshman in college majoring in mechanical engineering. I am so glad that we found out about the Parrish Learning Zone because they were very caring and really worked hard around my sons high school football schedule to ensure that he received all of the needed instruction in order to do well on the SAT testing. It was a great investment for his future. I believe this experience prepared my son for the transition to college life. He was able to attend a top engineering college and to play football there. My daughter is a senior in high school now and was admitted into two of the top ranked public schools in Virginia. She will be a freshman at one of these schools next year. She also was enrolled in the Parrish Learning Zone for preparation for the SAT. I am again thankful to the Parrish Learning Zone and feel that this was a great long term investment into their futures. I would strongly recommend the Parrish Learning Zone to anyone looking for an environment that offers a caring and knowledgeable approach to educating students. They are the best.
Angela Jackson
Angela Jackson
2014-05-15T00:39:39+0000
Andrew Powers
Andrew Powers
2014-02-09T12:32:29+0000

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