When Ryan was 5 years old, he didn’t know letter sounds. He also couldn’t blend 3 letter words like ham, fin and get. His peers were reading short vowel kindergarten books. Ryan knew he was behind. He dreaded reading time. One day, on his ride to school, he told his mom, “I hate reading. Mom, can you please take me out of school? They’re not teaching me how to read. Can you teach me how to read?” Ryan’s educators assumed he would “catch on.” His mom trusted them and thought Ryan would “catch on” too. Therefore, no one pursued an intervention. They looked at his 5 year old reading level, acknowledged he was behind, and decided to do nothing.
After all, there were some kids who did “catch on.” These kids were held up as the example. However, other kids in school did not “catch on,” struggled to decode words in 4th grade, read slowly and laboriously in 5th and 6th grade, and continued to dislike reading. If you have a child who struggles early on in the reading process, doing nothing is quite a gamble.
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While there are phonemic awareness tests that can help predict which children will “catch on,” there’s no way of knowing for certain if a child will “just get it.” These children who “just get” reading are in the minority. Their numbers are so small that Mark Seidenberg, a cognitive neuroscientist and author of Language at the Speed of Sight, says they’re difficult to study. The kids who struggle early on and continue to struggle later on are far more numerous. If these struggling readers receive a research-based intervention, however, their outcomes are excellent. They can cover huge ground and close the gap.
Reading scientists advocate early intervention. Seidenberg writes:
“Delays in identifying struggling readers are hazardous because earlier interventions are more successful (Seidenberg, 2017, p. 117).”
Ryan did not receive an intervention until grade 4. At that time, he couldn’t read basic sentences like Jake likes to pet the cat. He was an intelligent kid with a broad vocabulary, and working on Kindergarten and 1st grade phonics sounds was tedious and boring for him. He often asked, “Why didn’t anyone teach me this way earlier?” In our sessions, we set aside time to address this question. It was a profound question for a child. However, kids are so perceptive. If they struggle with decoding for years, then receive a proper intervention, they know they were initially taught the wrong way.
What does a 5 year old reading level look like?
So you’re convinced that learning to read on time is important. You don’t want your student to fall behind. How do you know what a 5 year old reading level is? Since this site is for struggling readers, I’m going to define rough sketch of a 5 year old level, a level that means the child is still right on track.
A 5 year old should be able to read short vowel words like: ham, hat, lad, pet, vet, Ben, him, nip, wit, hop, Bob, dot, cup, fun, pup.
Keep in mind that I’m talking about a 5 year old that’s been going to Kindergarten for a few months. If your 5 year old has not started Kindergarten, this content is not for you (yet). If your student has been in Kindergarten for a few months, then he should be able to read short vowel books like the following:
A 5 year old should be able to read a few sight words as well. Usually, kids learn common words like the, come, some, many, from, of, where, were…etc. before learning lesser common sight words like build, beautiful, group, thought… etc.
After your student learns to read short vowel words and a few sight words, he can read short vowel sentences like: The cat sat on the red hen. The hen was mad.
Visit the Reading Elephant library, where we have 20 short vowel books. Our shop has a plethora of systematic phonics books that teach kids to read one phonics sound at a time. Our books are a great resource for struggling readers.