My 1st Grader Can’t Read – Should I Be Worried?

my 1st grader can't read should I be worriedReading happens at different times for each child. Most reading happens in a sequence, beginning with decoding letters and sounds. Then, forming words and sentences – eventually paragraphs. Leading to forming ideas and the understanding of what they are reading. Along with reading, students begin to learn what words mean and how they fit into a story. So if your 1st grader can’t read , don’t be alarmed yet!

If Your 1st Grader Can’t Read

Ask the Teacher

Winter is the best time of the year to check with the  teacher and see what he or she thinks about how your child is reading. Most teachers are qualified to know if there might be cause for concern, and after the winter holiday most 1st graders are decoding letters and sounds. They are also reading short paragraphs and have some understanding of what they are reading.

If your child is not demonstrating these skills to the teacher, he or she may ask if there is a history of reading issues in your family. If there is or if the teacher recognizes that your child is avoiding reading, mixing up letters, and/or not progressing, then, there may be more cause for concern. But don’t worry – the teacher should have suggestions to ensure that your child gets the right instruction to make that progress.

Consider Different Learning Methods

Over the years, teachers have developed many different strategies for teaching reading. Your child’s teacher may be able to direct you to a method that will work better for your child. If he or she does not, however, there is nothing stopping you from looking into them yourself!

For some, phonics emphasis helps. For others, repetition and word practice. And some simply need time. Do a little research and don’t be shy about asking your child’s teacher about what you’ve found.

Add a Supplemental Program

According to a study by the Florida Center for Reading Research, “School-based instruction yielded larger effects than home-based instruction; small-group instruction yielded larger effects than individual tutoring programs.”

Reading can be a high-pressure assignment in elementary school. Getting a chance to practice within a small group can help create a feeling of belonging and a safe reading environment. This can go a long way to improving confidence at school, which can help students…

  • show their skills better to the teacher
  • ask questions when confused
  • learn from classmates

And the extra practice can also help students who simply need time and practice to have that lightbulb moment to make the leap from reading words to reading and understanding sentences and paragraphs.

When Should You Worry?

Most students will develop at their own pace, and eventually, the “light will come on.” If your child is creative, gets along well with peers, and can maintain focus on activities for an extended amount of time, then, reading success is probably just a matter of time. Remember: there is a lot of pressure on children to succeed in reading, so look at what your child can do rather than not do. How does your child’s skills compare to what other children can do at this point in 1st grade? (If you don’t know, the teacher can tell you!)

If you’ve tried the steps listed here, and your child is still not making progress , then, the most important concern will be to identify why. You as a parent know your child better than anyone. Work with the teacher to narrow down possible issues and get the intervention that your child needs.

What helped your 1st grader learn to read? What would you recommend for other parents?

Author: Pam Crum, Lead Teacher at A Grade Ahead

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