When Older Children Struggle to Read
During my time as a classroom teacher, I taught a variety of different grade levels in a seven-year span. While this had its challenges, it also allowed me to experience first hand the ways that literacy instruction differed in primary and upper grades.
My initial teaching experiences were in the primary classroom. I have a strong background in early literacy development and I taught first and second grade for four years.
In the primary classroom, identifying reading difficulties is fairly straightforward. Maybe not why a child struggles or specific disabilities like dyslexia, but at least identifying that a child is struggling is simple for a classroom teacher. In kindergarten through about mid-third grade, students read aloud, all the time. Almost every literary activity is oral. They read to partners, read to stuffed animals, read to a teacher, segment sounds out loud. When students are learning to read, it is a noisy process.
When a student struggles, you can hear it. You hear that they mix up their b’s and d’s, or that they make the short i sound in the word hen. You ask them questions about what they are reading, and they answer out loud. You follow up to determine what specific comprehension skills they struggle with.
At home, students read out loud to their parents. If your child struggles with their reading, you know. You can identify if they are missing words or don’t understand the text. In short, the process of learning to read is a loud one. A beautiful, exciting, and noisy undertaking.
After my four years in the primary classroom, I moved up to 5th grade and then eventually to 7th and 8th grade reading. As I moved out of the primary classroom, I noticed a distinctive shift, reading became a silent, internal process. Students were very rarely asked to read out loud, and as a result, identifying reading difficulties became much more difficult.
Think about it, if you have a child in 4th grade or higher, when is the last time you had them read out loud to you? As students internalize the reading process, it becomes silent. While this is a natural progression, it can do a major disservice to older readers who struggle.
As I have moved on in my career to become an online reading clinician, I have noticed that many parents of older children don’t know why they struggle with reading or what their specific struggles are. Usually, I hear that they struggle with comprehension. However, when I have the student read a text out loud to me, I find that in reality, their reading level is low. They can comprehend texts at their instructional level, but their instructional level is below grade level.
When asked to read grade level text silently in class, they cannot answer comprehension questions correctly. In many cases, this may not be due to a comprehension issue necessarily but is due to the fact that they cannot accurately and fluently read the text. Without asking the student to read aloud, this can often go undetected for months or even years.
In order to serve the student and increase their reading skills, the correct diagnosis of the issue is essential. This is why the reading clinicians at RW&C give each student a variety of assessments to determine the underlying reading issue. Our online tutoring program is then adjusted to fit the needs of each student in order to ensure reading success.
Older students are given phonics assessments to determine if the issue is related to letter sounds. They are also given fluency and comprehension assessments as well as writing and phonemic awareness activities. Simply because a child is older does not mean that they have mastered all the basic skills necessary to become fluent and competent readers.
I have often heard that when it comes to reading, it is not the age, it’s the stage. This could not be more true. It does not matter how old a child is or even what their grade level in school is. If they have not mastered the basics of reading, they need direct instruction.
Coming from a classroom background, I know that often upper-grade teachers are not trained in early literacy and often do not have the resources that students need to master early reading skills. If your older child struggles with reading, they may not get the help they need in school.
With our one-on-one online tutoring program, we can help your child whatever their reading issue. Our clinicians are trained in all aspects of literacy instruction and can tailor their sessions to meet the needs of your child. Don’t wait and hope that they will catch up, get them the help they need today.
Contact us to get started and learn more about our online tutoring program.
Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.