The past year has been challenging for all of us—children, parents and grandparents alike. However, any parent whose child has spent a significant time at home and out of school will testify that the challenge of trying to keep a child up to date with their education has proven particularly demanding. Parents were expected to be teachers while having to balance their own work and simultaneously run a home.
One of the key skills a child learns very early on in their educational journey is how to read. This is a fundamental cornerstone—because by learning to read we can then read to learn. If a child falls behind in their reading they can quickly fall behind in so many other aspects of their education.
During the past year many children have stalled or even gone backwards in their reading. For a child this can prove very frustrating, as they are not equipped with the literary skills to progress in other parts of their education.
“My child hates reading. Whenever we have to sit for reading homework it becomes such a power struggle, and a full-blown temper tantrum begins. I can’t do it anymore, so I just stop pushing. Tears and screams go on for 20 minutes and I just can’t bear it each night.” That is the struggle of a parent trying to help a child read.
That struggle can easily be transformed with the right help for struggling readers. “My daughter was struggling in school with her sounds, letters, reading and writing. It was impacting her performance in the classroom and her confidence. We decided to begin speech/literacy lessons. She always looked forward to her sessions because it made her feel successful and confident. She recently told me she loves reading and would like me to buy her more books. That is truly all a parent can ask for. Her confidence has blossomed and she is approaching the same standards as her class in such a short period of time. She recently read 11 books in her 45- minute session and felt so proud.”
Speech therapists such as myself also specialize in literacy to help children improve their ability to read and their relationship to reading. It is very important to identify reading difficulties at a young age and begin intervention immediately, because the gap between strong readers and poor readers widens very quickly. Children who begin to struggle with reading begin to develop a difficult relationship with reading and learning. A negative view about learning can cause a buildup of frustration in all areas of academics, because from pre-K and kindergarten onwards your child is not learning to read, but reading to learn.
If a child is struggling to read it may be an indication of an underlying learning disability where there is a need for systematic reading instruction. Reading disabilities are more common than many people think—between 15-20% of people struggle with some level of dyslexia. Dyslexia is the most common learning disorder, affecting about one in five people, regardless of age or gender. Reading difficulties can cause trouble in other areas of learning, including writing, spelling, fluency and comprehension. Learning why a child is struggling can help him or her develop the skills needed to become a more proficient and confident reader. Waiting too long to get help can cause children who require additional help to fall behind, which makes catching up more difficult, putting them at a major learning disadvantage.
Giving a child the skills to read opens a world of opportunities. They are able to progress at the expected pace, their confidence boosts and they are able to access knowledge independently. With strong reading skills, children can expand their own knowledge and interests, thereby feeding their souls.
Ashley Small is a practicing speech-language pathologist who has worked in schools and has a private practice. She lectures as an adjunct professor for undergraduate and graduate students. She works with a variety of children with articulation disorders, apraxia, autism, language difficulties, reading disorders, stuttering, and other health impairments as well as adults with Parkinson’s Disease. Ashley is currently offering virtual literary sessions and can be contacted at [email protected].