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Why Can't My Child Read?

written by: Anne Vize • edited by: Noreen Gunnell • updated: 9/11/2012

Why can't my child read? The question plagues many parents and causes stress for kids and parents alike. Helping children learn to read is a challenging and time-consuming task. Parents may fear talking to teachers, but often teachers are the best ally with many great ideas to help.

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    My Child Can't Read: Why?

    Sadly, in many schools reading can become a bit of a competition. The race is on from minute one to see which child can read the fastest, the most, and with the greatest fluency and skill. That casual question in the parking lot about 'What reading level is your child up to?' seems so innocent, but in fact can be so loaded with criticism, frustration, guilt and the thousand other emotions that torment parents. The fact is, children are ready to read at many different ages and stages.

    For some children, being ready to read comes only after lots of experience and time spent listening to reading books. And if they happen to be a child who was not ready to sit and listen in the preschool days, then that reading time may need to occur a little later.

    Some children have reading problems or learning disabilities that can hamper their ability to learn to read. Visual problems and hearing problems can also get in the way of reading. So checking out these possibilities early on can be a wise choice in some families.

    Some children struggle with the particular teaching approach used by their school or teacher. They may be a strongly visual learner and so may struggle with some phonics-based methods such as THRASS or Jolly Phonics. These children may benefit from switching to another teaching method such as using the Magic 100 words system.

    Some children seem to be born with ants in their pants--they just can't sit still long enough to learn anything, much less apply the concentration needed to learn to read! Although frustrating, these kids need time, patience and reading tasks broken into small portions to keep them on track and positive about their learning.

    Some children are turned off reading early with reading tasks that are too hard for them and so make them feel they are a failure before they begin. For beginning readers, tasks where the success rate for reading words in printed text is up around 90% is useful. Too many errors means the idea and flow of a story is lost, and the child may as well be reading words from a list for all the understanding they get from the text. If kids can't read their take home readers easily and happliy, chances are they are too hard!

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    Communication Between Teachers and Parents

    Talking to teachers is something some parents do easily and others struggle with. Communication between teachers and parents can be made easier by using these ten tips:

    1. Making an appointment
    2. Choosing a time when you and the teacher are not busy or rushed
    3. Writing down your concerns beforehand
    4. Spending at least as much time listening as talking
    5. Setting a goal with your child and their teacher
    6. Being prepared to work with the teacher to achieve the reading goals
    7. Using a communication book or diary to keep in regular contact about how reading at home and school is going
    8. Asking the teacher to explain why they use certain teaching methods and what other options are available
    9. Discussing assessments and the use of other professionals such as Reading Recovery teachers who can help
    10. Talking to teachers when you are feeling positive and hopeful rather than when you are down and frustrated