By Jan Baumel, M.S.
Most kids learn to read no matter what method of instruction is used. But 20 percent of school age kids are poor readers and remain that way through their lifetime. You may have heard that letter reversals are an early indicator of reading problems. Actually, many young kids exhibit some reversals as they're learning to form letters and sequence from left to right. The scientific, independent research results tell us that reading is a language-based skill. This means that delays in early language development are better predictors of reading problems.
The best way to tell how kids in kindergarten and first grade will develop reading skills is to look at their ability to break up spoken words into the individual sounds, or phonemes. They have to be able to isolate sounds and manipulate them in words.
Our language is based on the alphabetic principle. Written words are made up of letters that represent sounds. Kids need to learn that certain sounds go with certain letters.
Reading comprehension depends on quick and automatic reading of single words. If kids read slowly and struggle with words that should be familiar, they won't remember or understand what they've read.
If problems with reading have existed over a period of time, he has average or above average intelligence, has received basic instruction in reading, and has no physical or emotional disabilities that might affect learning, he may have a reading disability. Talk to his teacher, and make sure that he's receiving effective, research-based instruction. If necessary, consider having him assessed.
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