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Identifying Early Signs of a Reading Difficulty

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  • 0:04 Early Intervention Is Key
  • 0:34 What to Look for in…
  • 1:55 First Grade Issues
  • 2:37 Second Grade & Beyond
  • 3:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Laura Gray

Laura has taught at the secondary and tertiary levels for 20+ years and has a Ph.D. in Instructional Design for Online Learning.

This lesson introduces the signs and symptoms often displayed by early elementary age students who are having difficulty with reading. Specific signs at each grade level are identified and discussed.

Early Intervention is Key

Reading is an essential skill for academic success. Let's face it: kids who can't read well just don't perform as well in school-related activities as children who are good readers. That's why it's important to be able to identify at an early age potential difficulties with reading so that educators have as much time as possible to diagnose - and, hopefully, to correct - the problem. In this lesson, we'll focus on the early warning signs, or signals that your child may have a reading problem, and when to look for these signs.

What to Look for in Kindergarten

In kindergarten and early first grade, the signs of reading difficulty are usually already present, but they are sometimes hard to identify. If your kindergartner displays any of the following signs, he or she may have problems with learning to read:

  • Difficulty with letter recognition, or knowing which letter of the alphabet is which. When a child has trouble identifying letters, or distinguishing letters from numbers or symbols, it's a clear sign that a very young child will struggle with reading. This is not to be confused with writing, since it's perfectly normal for children to write letters upside down or backward, and this pattern often continues well into second grade.
  • Difficulty making the connection between letters and the sounds they represent. For example, does the child have trouble remembering that the letter S represents a hissing sound?
  • Difficulty recognizing rhyming words. Can your kindergartner recognize that 'cat' rhymes with 'hat'? If not, this may be a sign of trouble ahead.
  • Resistance to all things related to reading. Your child may want to get up and run around or do something else when it's time to focus on reading, and that is a strong sign that he or she finds reading to be difficult. This is particularly true with students who seem inattentive only during reading lessons. At first glance, it may appear to be an attention problem when, in fact, the behavior is the result of a reading problem.

First Grade Issues

By the time a child enters first grade, he or she should already have some basic reading skills. At the very least, first graders should be able to read short, simple sentences. If this is not the case with your first-grader, here are some things you should look for:

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