Parents MY CHILD'S ACADEMIC SUCCESS
If You Think There's a Problem -- Helping Your Child Become a Reader

Childlike drawing of a father reading a magazine to a boy.

Your child may resist being read to or joining with you in the activities in this booklet. If so, keep trying the activities, but keep them playful. Remember that children vary a great deal in the ways that they learn. Don't be concerned if your child doesn't enjoy a certain activity that her friend of the same age loves. It is important, though, to keep an eye on how your child is progressing. (See the box, "Watching Your Child Progress.")

When a child is having a language or reading problem, the reason might be simple to understand and deal with or it might be complicated and require expert help. Often, children may just need more time to develop their language skills. On the other hand, some children might have trouble seeing, hearing, or speaking. Others may have a learning disability. If you think your child may have some kind of physical or learning problem, it is important to get expert help quickly.

Parents, teachers, and other professionals can work together to determine if a child has a learning disability or other problem, and then provide the right help as soon as possible.

If your child is in school and you think that she should have stronger language skills, ask for a private meeting with her teacher. (You may feel more comfortable taking a friend, relative, or someone else in your community with you.) In most cases, the teacher or perhaps the principal will be able to help you to understand how your child is doing and what you might do to help her.

There is a law—the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA—that may allow you to get certain services for your child from your school district. Your child might qualify to receive help from a speech and language therapist or other specialist, or she might qualify to receive materials designed to match her needs. You can learn about your special education rights and responsibilities by requesting that the school give you—in your first language—a summary of legal rights. To find out about programs for children with disabilities that are available in your state, contact the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities.(See Resources for Parents and Caregivers for the address and phone number and for other resources.)

The good news is that no matter how long it takes, most children can learn to read. Parents, teachers, and other professionals can work together to determine if a child has a learning disability or other problem, and then provide the right help as soon as possible. When a child gets such help, chances are very good that she will develop the skills she needs to succeed in school and in life. Nothing is more important than your support for your child as she goes through school. Make sure she gets any extra help she needs as soon as possible, and always encourage her and praise her efforts.

Watching Your Child Progress

As a parent, you can learn a lot about your child's learning and watch for signs of possible problems. Here are some things to look for and to discuss with his teacher:

  • Starting at age 3 or 4: Does your child remember nursery rhymes, and can he play rhyming games?

  • At about age 4: Can your child get information or directions from conversations or books that are read aloud to him?

  • Kindergartners: Is your child beginning to name and write the letters and numbers that he sees in books, on billboards and signs, and in other places?

  • At age 5: Can your child play and enjoy simple word games in which two or more words start with the same sound? For example: "Name all the animals you can think of that start with d."

  • At ages 5 and 6: Does your child show that he understands that spoken words can be broken down into smaller parts (for example, by noticing the word big in bigger)? Does he seem to understand that you can change a small part of a word and make a different word (for example, by changing the first sound and letter of cat, you can make hat, sat, mat, bat, rat, and so on)?