What is it about teaching reading that arouses such passions in both parents and teachers?  Reading effectively is no less a vital skill than crossing the road safely, but we have more children who can cross the road than can read effectively.  Reading is difficult, it is a hard skill to master – if it was easy, everyone could do it.  The problem is, with every passing day a child struggles with reading, self-esteem may be dropping.   Reading difficulties combined with low self – esteem can cause a variety of other classroom issues including behaviour problems.

Parents can assist in their child’s reading progress by understanding that reading is an extremely complex process and not all children will learn to read in the manner presented to them.  Recent statistics say, up to 40 percent of students struggle to learn to read using current methods.

If you suspect your child is struggling with reading, the first stop is to your child’s teacher.  Asking questions is the best way to check if the teacher is seeing the same struggles as you are.  A word to the wise, children do not typically grow out of reading difficulties.  Clothes yes, reading difficulties no.  If strategies do not seem to work then you may wish to have their reading assessed in more depth.

The first skill to look for is word recognition.  Being able to decode words accurately is the first skill that must be mastered in order to read effectively.  Most elementary schools test for word recognition.   Check with the teacher to see if he/she has recent results.  The rule of thumb is this:  In order for a child to be able to handle the amount of dense text at his or her grade level, the word recognition score should be a grade ahead of the grade placement.  If this is not the case, then frustration with reading will definitely be mounting.

A child who struggles will often present as either unfocused in class, disruptive or a daydreamer.  Reading difficulties are often masked as other problems so it is always a good idea to check the reading first. Behaviours will vary from child to child and a parent may wish to seek assistance from outside sources.

Be sure to let your child’s teacher know that your going to an outside source is not an indication of your faith in them as a teacher but as an acknowledgement that teachers have many students to deal with in a day and a very limited time in which to do it.   Life in the classroom is perhaps difficult for your child and is also at times difficult for the teacher.  If you can work as a team to find the best possible solution to the reading difficulty both the student and the teacher wins.

Lani Donaldson is the President and CEO of Engaged Educators Inc.