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Is my Child an At-Risk Reader?

Written by: Karina Fiset

March 31, 2017

Does your 7-year-old, who’s now in 2nd grade, still have trouble reading? Maybe everything becomes a reason to avoid homework time and what should be a 20-minute reading assignment turns into an endless struggle? And even then, your kid seems to focus on anything but the text on hand, and guesses the words instead of referring to the context, so you end up doing most of the reading. If this sounds familiar, wait before you scold your child: he or she might be a reader at risk.

Knowing the at-risk reader

Readers are said to be at risk to experience reading difficulties when they have trouble decoding (sounding out letters and words) and understanding without help a text that is adapted to their level. While such difficulties obviously affect their reading skills, at-risk readers might also have trouble answering questions regarding said text, understanding written questions in other school subjects (when solving a math problem, for example), or when speaking and writing.

Recognizing the signs

Generally, children who encounter reading difficulties,

  • lack concentration,
  • have little to no interest in books,
  • confuse certain letters or sounds,
  • scramble the letters that make up a word,
  • skip, add or change words,
  • often stop when reading and tend to decode syllable after syllable, and thus struggle with understanding words, expressions, segments or sentences, and
  • have a hard time explaining the ideas behind a text.


Therefore, we can conclude that a first grader who reads “The bog darks” and without being aware of his or her mistake mostly concentrates on the graphic form of words and doesn’t take the context into account when trying to understand.

Note however that when it comes to reading difficulties, not all word and letter-related mistakes are as serious. To determine whether or not your child really is at risk, you have to take into account, among other things, the type of mistakes he or she makes, their frequency and their actual impact on the overall comprehension of the text.

In other words, a child who adds, skips or changes a word does not necessarily have a reading problem.

Evaluating their reading speed

You can also determine your child’s reading level by comparing his or her decoding speed with what is expected from children their age. This will help you evaluate their abilities; note that silent reading and reading out loud are considered to be two different skills, and should therefore be evaluated according to two different standards. Unfortunately, reading slowly can become a problem when a child has a time limit to complete a task, such as an exam.

Acknowledging their difficulties are serious

Children normally love to learn and are usually extremely proud to display their new skills, whether it’s reading or anything else. It is also completely normal that they sometimes don’t feel like making any efforts, or just feel a little tired. However, if this has happened to your child before, there is a risk that your child might be facing some reading difficulties.


Compared to at-risk readers, good readers will be able to read a text mostly without help, and even if they had trouble with some words, chances are they will be able to talk about what they just read and answer content-related questions.

Finding solutions

So if your 7-year-old daughter, now a 2nd grader, avoids reading at all costs, turns it into a chore, and changes the words that she’s reading, remember that this sort of behavior is not intentional and that these might be signs of some more or less important struggles.

These should be taken seriously if they are frequent and truly impact the reader’s comprehension, as they are part of the difficulties a dyslexic child might face. A neuropsychologist could evaluate your child’s situation and determine how serious the problem is according to his or her difficulties, behaviour, reactions to the text, capacity decode the text and explain its message, etc.

This will help determine whether or not your child is an at-risk reader. Your neuropsychologist can also provide recommendations to help your child overcome these difficulties, without you doing all the reading!

 

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