Many parents aren’t sure when to hire a reading interventionist. They hear conflicting things from teachers, other parents and even doctors. Some say, “You should wait. You’re child needs a few more months to catch on.” Others suggest getting a reading assessment to see if your child needs a one-on-one reading intervention.
“Should I hire a reading interventionist?” is a question that can keep parents up at night. Parents see their child’s self-esteem chip away when he can’t read book his peers can read. Struggling readers say surprisingly heartbreaking things like, “I guess I won’t go to college. I’m not smart enough to read.”
I am a San Diego Reading Interventionist, and I meet many students that are far, far below grade level. Once a child reaches second grade and still can’t read his academic confidence is shattered, and parents are desperate for help. Early intervention is best. Closely follow your child’s reading progress in K-3, the grades when children are learning how to read. The following are signs that a child can benefit from a research-based reading intervention.
Children that struggle with decoding tend to whisper when they encounter a big word. A child that reads at a normal volume and then suddenly whispers over big words (and says the wrong word) needs a reading interventionist. Children who whisper are not showing confidence or the necessary skills to decode.
THE LOOK AT THE PICTURES FOR CLUES READER
When a child struggles with decoding, he’ll rely on pictures. He’ll look at the pictures to guess at the words. When the pictures are taken away, he can’t read. Looking at pictures does not develop the phonological route—the neuronal network created that links many different areas of the brain so we can read. Looking at pictures is not a sustainable method, and will break down into reading failure when texts (in later grades) no longer have so many pictures.
THE I’LL JUST GUESS READER
In their EXCELLENT book on vocabulary development Bringing Words to Life, Beck, Mckeown and Kucan show how looking at context is not a valuable reading method. Children that look at context to guess at words are inaccurate readers. Turns out, even adults that “guess” at blacked out words are inaccurate readers. Looking at context is a poor reading method that results in reading failure. Children using this method will also use the first letter to guess, resulting in some errors like “contain” for “commit” or “bright” for “brave.”
WHAT DID I JUST READ?
Some children need help visualizing language. This child will amaze you with what he can read. However, when he’s asked about the content, he has poor reading comprehension. He can’t answer basic reading comprehension questions even if the text is read aloud to him. Reading is very different from speech—language, including syntax and diction, is far more complex in reading than in speech. A reading interventionist can help students learn common text vocabulary and techniques to help them visualize language.
THE SLOW READER
Fluency has a significant impact on reading comprehension. Slow reading is difficult to understand. We don’t speak slowly. Our brains expect to receive language rapidly. When readers pause often and pronounce words slowly, they struggle to comprehend the text. Fluency can be improved by reading (leveled texts) A LOT and receiving systematic instruction in common sound chunks.
As a San Diego reading interventionist, I meet many second graders (and third graders) that can’t read the most basic sentence, like: “Beth ran down the hill.” It’s important to catch these students before they fall even further behind.