“1 in 5 kids in the U.S. struggle with issues related to reading, writing, math, focus and organization. These kids with learning issues are as smart as their peers, but too many aren’t getting the support they need to succeed.”
Third grade is a pivotal year in your child’s education. They make the giant leap from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” This also marks the time that if children are behind in their reading abilities, they often stay lagging behind, unless they receive help.
It is important to be crystal clear in understanding the areas where your child needs help. Ask to meet with their teacher immediately to review their most current reading tests and to ask what the teacher observes. Many children benefit from (1) finding books on just the right level, (2) increasing their at home reading time, and (3) making an effort to improve their fluency by doing repeated readings and having an adult give them feedback on how they read. Your child may also benefit from interventions, like reading one on one or in a small group with a reading specialist at school. They may also benefit from a tutor after school who specializes in reading.
It is estimated that as much as 20% of the population experiences some reading disability. When children are in 3rd grade, it can be difficult to tease out if they just need additional practice or if they are truly facing a disability. There are some telltale signs that a trained educator or specialist can detect.
Some students have not had effective reading instruction, other children have not had adequate exposure to reading before third grade, and other children may have a reading disability, such as dyslexia, which makes reading very challenging. There are some children who face all of these scenarios combined. The good news is that children can overcome their difficulties with the right support from trained educators and specialists. Reading disabilities are not related to a child’s intelligence.
No matter what issue your child is facing, they will require excellent reading instruction from a teacher with extensive knowledge and deep understanding of how to teach reading. Many parents also pursue tutoring from a trained tutor in multisensory reading instruction, such as the Orton-Gillingham method.
Seeing your child struggle and suffer can be difficult for families to experience. It can also affect a child’s self-esteem when they witness classmates reading confidently. If you are worried, don’t delay in your search for answers.
Advocate for your child, try to pinpoint the exact reading problems your child is facing. Tell your pediatrician how you see your child struggling. Ask for an appointment with your child’s teacher and voice your concerns. The research is very clear about what to look for and parents should not wait until 2nd or 3rd grade to ask for help. You have a right to ask for an educational evaluation at any time from your public school. If you would like to take more urgent action, contact a local experienced clinical psychologist who can administer a learning disability evaluation. Ask your pediatrician for a recommendation.
Don’t stop reading aloud to your child because you see them struggling on their own. Storytelling is central to human existence, just because they are grappling with the mechanics, they still need the pleasure and experience of being immersed in a good book.
Focus and highlight your child’s strengths so they know they are more than their reading difficulties. Your child needs to know that you believe in them.
Be wary of holding your child back; waiting another year will only put off needed help. Unlike other normal childhood stages, learning to read is not going to be a “natural” activity for many children. The window for learning to read is critical in the Kindergarten to 2nd grade years, and the sooner you can get help and resources for your child, the more success they will begin to experience.
Finding answers to your concerns will provide relief and allow you to approach helping your child with a renewed sense of hope for their reading.