Children develop at different rates. While some children with foundational literacy difficulties will catch up to their peers, children who make slow early progress often need extra help. If they don’t get it, they can experience delays in literacy development which ultimately impacts on their academic success.
There are some early signs that your child might be having trouble with foundational literacy skills. These signs involve both oral language (vocabulary and listening skills) and knowledge of word structure (knowing letters, rhyming, sounding out and blending sounds in simple words).
Seek help or advice if most of the time your child has trouble with three or more of the following activities:
- Telling you what action is going on in a picture book (running, barking, eating)
- Using all of the necessary words to make a complete sentence – for example, ‘I’m going to the zoo’ rather than ‘ me going zoo’
- Listening to an adult read to her on a regular basis
- Remembering a previously read book when shown its cover
- Showing an awareness of how books are handled
- Naming simple objects represented in books
- Concentrating on and responding to print, such as the letters in names, signs and so on
- Scribbling to make shapes that look like letters
- Playing with words and making rhyming words. Children particularly enjoy making up “rude” rhymes. E.g. hum, bum, mum
- Repeating at least parts of nursery rhymes.
5 – 6 years
Seek help or advice if most of the time your child can’t do the things listed above, and struggles with three or more of the following.
- Understanding everyday spoken directions
- Incorporating new words when he speaks, and noticeably using longer sentences (often more than five words)
- Recognising the beginning of words and sounds that rhyme, and producing examples
- Breaking simple words into their parts (syllables or single sounds), and putting sounds together to make words
- Using the proper endings of words – for example, ‘He played soccer with me’ rather than ‘He play soccer with me’
- Showing interest in books and reading
- Trying to read – for example, your child should recognize their own name, brands (McDonald’s ‘M’, Stop Signs, Woolworths etc.) Recognizes the sounds of letters and makes references like, ‘that one starts the same as my name, or snakes start with the same letter that Stop does..
- Following the sequence of events in stories
- Relating what happens in books to her own life events
- Listening attentively when books are read aloud, deriving meaning and pleasure from it.
- Knowing that words in print are different from pictures, and are there to be read
- Observing and commenting on print in different settings, such as on TV, food packets and so on
- Appreciating the different purposes of print – for example, prices, shopping lists, recipes, assembly instructions
- Knowing that each letter in the alphabet has a name and a sound, and being able to name at least eight of them
- Understanding that writing is a tool for communication, and scribbling his name, messages and so on (regardless of whether you can read what he scribbles).
By the middle of grade one your child should be enjoying learning to read and should be developing a growing sight – word vocabulary such as the, and, and is. The letter – sound associations should be more automatic and he should be eager to read. The following may be warning signs as you listen to your child read aloud:
- Doesn’t know the sounds associated with all of the letters
- Skips words in a sentence and doesn’t stop to self-correct
- Can’t remember words; sounds out the same word every time it occurs on the page
- Frequently guesses at unknown words rather than sounding them out
You can also look at your child’s writing for clues about reading difficulty. By the end of Grade R, a child should be writing his name and some other consonants. Mixed uppercase and lower case letters is appropriate.
It’s important not to panic if you see some of these warning signs in your child. Lists of early warning signs can help you be on the lookout; however, there is no precise list of surefire signs of a reading difficulty. Each child is unique and may exhibit only some of the signs. Knowing what to look for can help you decide whether you need to investigate further.
When in doubt check it out.