When working with parents of elementary school children, we hear these questions and comments daily when it comes to their reading and writing skills.
- I have a hard time reading my son’s handwriting; is that normal?
- My daughter struggles to form her letters when she is writing.
- My daughter reads well, but it doesn’t seem like she comprehends what she reads.
- I’ve been having my son read out loud to me, and I want to cringe when I hear him read.
Some kids pick up reading and writing quickly and never have issues and other kids take a bit longer. As a parent, it is important for you to know what to expect from your kids at each age level. Knowing when your child is experiencing unusual struggles and perhaps not meeting the milestones for his or her age can help you identify learning issues early on. Earlier is definitely better when it comes to reading and writing intervention. When a child is behind, taking a wait-and-see approach is not usually advised.
Your child’s teacher will probably be the first to recognize any issues and may bring it to your attention. However, as a parent you may start to recognize areas where your child may not be up to par when it comes to his or her writing or reading skills. Here are some basic milestones that can help you gauge if your child is on track.
Basic Writing & Reading Milestones
Once your kids are talking, singing and “reading” books with you, observe whether they can rhyme and repeat short phrases, sentences or even numbers. You can do this by having them finish sentences that they have memorized in rhyming books such as “Goodnight Moon” and anything Dr. Seuss. It’s understandable that young children mispronounce longer words but take note if they seem unable to actually hear and/or reproduce sounds. Do they say “aminal” for animal or “furcus” for circus? Some kids have trouble actually processing sounds in words and others struggle with saying or properly “articulating” them. At these ages kids should be learning to say the alphabet, beginning to recognize some letters, counting to 10 and even experimenting with crayons and pencils.
At this age your child should be able to hold and use a pencil correctly (or reasonably so) when writing. As they move from age 5 to 7, they should also be increasingly able to recognize and write sight words. Sight are words like cat, dog, boy, or girl. These are words that they recognize by their shape and can pick them out while reading.
They should recognize up to about 200 words within this age group. They also start ‘self-correcting’ when they make a mistake by going back and re-reading. Ideally when they encounter unfamiliar words, they are using strategies such as sounding them out and/or considering the context to help figure out the words.
When your child reaches this age, they are writing better. Their handwriting continually improves and they are starting to understand spacing between words, capitalizing letters and using punctuation in their sentences. They will start to recognize words and can read out loud without hesitation. This is when kids also begin to read to themselves, silently or in their heads and have truly the begun the shift from learning to read to reading to learn.
This age is where you will see your child writing stories, letters and working on book reports. You’ll find homework at this age consists of learning to write better through proofreading drafts and creating final drafts. Your child should be able to summarize what they’ve read and understand what they are reading.
What Do You Do If You See A Problem
Keep in mind these are general guidelines of what is considered typical and should not be used to diagnose a learning disability. Children learn and comprehend at different levels and not all children learn at the same pace.
If your child is struggling it doesn’t mean that they aren’t intelligent or that they aren’t interested. It could be the sign of a learning or attention issue. When a child experiences a learning or attention issue it can affect their reading, writing, concentration, listening and many other areas of their life.
It can be hard to put your finger on the problem if you aren’t aware of what skills are typical for his or her age. If you do see an issue, it can be beneficial to reach out to your child’s teacher to see if they have noticed the same issues. Do they have any concerns with their level of learning? Your child’s teacher will usually be able to either confirm your thoughts or put your mind at ease. However, even if a teacher tells you that they don’t see a problem, or maybe they just feel that your child is being lazy, you know your child, so trust your gut. Speak to your child’s doctor or a child psychologist to rule out any learning or attention issues even if a teacher makes you feel that you are over reacting.
Should an issue be detected such as ADD, ADHD or dyslexia, it’s always better to know as soon as possible. Identifying issues early can better prepare the child, their teachers and the parent for a smoother learning experience free from excessive frustration and confusion.
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