There are several signs that a child may be struggling with reading in kindergarten, including:
1. Difficulty recognizing letters and their sounds:
A child who struggles to identify letters and the sounds they make will have difficulty sounding out words, which is a fundamental skill needed for reading.
2. Difficulty holding continuous sounds:
Continuous sounds are sounds that can be prolonged or sustained, like the short vowels (a, e, i, o, u) or some consonants (such as s, z, f, v, m, n). When we make these sounds, we can hold them for a long period of time without stopping or adding an /uh/.
3. Difficulty clipping stop sounds:
In contrast to continuous sounds, stop sounds are short, explosive sounds. If you try to hold a stop sound, you will inevitably add an /uh/. For example, if you try to hold d, you will say /duh/. The extra /uh/ causes problems for early readers. The letter d does not say /duh/. It says /d-/. In words like “dog,” a child that does not clip or remove the /uh/ may say “duhooog… dug/!” Difficulty clipping stop sounds can cause reading miscues. Examples of other stop sounds include p, b, t, k, and g.
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4. Slow reading:
In early kindergarten, it’s normal for a child to read very, very slowly. Sometimes beginners will read only 4 words a minute. That’s okay. Sound-by-sound reading can be laborious for a beginning 5 year old. However, by mid-kindergarten, if you’re noticing a gap between your child’s reading speed and the fluency (reading speed) of his peers, he may have dyslexia or insufficient phonics knowledge. Later in kindergarten, kids usually read more along the lines of 20-40 words per minute. Fluency rates can vary widely in kindergarten. However, a child who reads very slowly or pauses a lot may be struggling with reading.
5. Difficulty with rhyming and other phonemic awareness tasks:
Phonemic awareness activities are sound activities with NO TEXT. Phonemic awareness is an essential reading skill. Rhyming is a component of phonemic awareness. If a child struggles with rhyming, it may indicate difficulty with phonemic awareness. Most people are familiar with rhyming and that’s why I included it in this post.
However, other phonemic awareness activities like blending, segmenting and dropping sounds are even more important. In particular, blending is a critical kindergarten skill. If you say something slowly (holding continuous sounds a LONG time and clipping stop sounds), your child should be able to figure out what the word is. For example, if you say, “SSSSS-aaaaa-mmmmm” the child should say “Sam,” and if you say “h-eeeee-nnnnn” the child should say “hen”… etc.
6. Avoiding reading:
If a child avoids reading or shows a lack of interest in books and reading activities, it may be a sign that they are struggling with reading.
When I first meet a dyslexic child or struggling reader, they usually try to hide from me. They know I’m supposed to help them in reading. Yet, they’ve already been made to feel like a failure.
One child, who I’ll call Jim for the sake of his anonymity, would meander around the room. He needed to create physical space between himself and the Dyslexia Therapist. Jim, like many struggling readers, had already received many interventions in school, including: speech pathology, occupational therapy, special education classes, after-school tutoring, and even visits to the doctor. Nothing worked. In 2nd grade, he couldn’t read anything. The parent finally hired outside help.
After several sessions, this child went from being unable to read anything to being able to read cvc words of all 5 short vowel types. He could read the following page:
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He was astounded at his progress. “I can read!” he said with shock in his eyes. He saw that my lessons actually worked. Gradually, he learned one phonics sound at a time and he became a reader. He no longer hid from me during lessons. He trusted that I was actually helping him.
Some level of avoidance is normal. None of us like to do homework or reading tasks all of the time. But there is a level of avoidance that’s abnormal. Is your child consistently avoiding reading lessons? Does he feign belly aches to avoid reading time? Does the idea of reading get him angry? These sorts of things bleed into the realm of abnormal.
7. Frustration or anxiety around reading:
A child who becomes easily frustrated or anxious when asked to read or work with books may be struggling with reading. This is related to the last sign. However, this child doesn’t just avoid reading lessons, he cries, worries or needs comfort. This is a huge indicator that the kindergartner is struggling with reading.