Early Literacy – Red Flags to Recognize

If you’re anything like my family, school has started with a vengeance! Drop offs, pick-ups, making lunches, etc – all of the hectic fun that comes with having four people on four different schedules.  Along with that, also comes the usual beginning of school year questions – how is everyone adjusting to their new class/teacher/school? Are they prepared for the work ahead or is there some extra help they may need along the way?

In our last post, we talked about the importance of early intervention and the fact that you, as a parent, know your child the best. Sometimes, it’s hard to really know when something is maybe just a blip on the radar or something that needs some extra attention.  In this post, we’ll take a closer look at some reading red flags and ways that they can be addressed.

Preschool and Kindergarten

We all know the importance of reading often with our child as a way of forming good habits early and hopefully instilling a joy of literacy and storytelling. There seems to be more and more pressure for kids to learn to read earlier and this is in no way meant to add fuel to that fire. Kids learn at different speeds from one another and that is A-OK! It’s easy to play the comparison game and worry when your child doesn’t seem to be keeping up with the Johnnys or Janes.  However, there are some early indicators that you and your teacher can be on the lookout for at this age so that early intervention measures can be implemented.

  • Challenges recognizing letters – Between the ages of 4-5, children usually begin to recognize letters and that is a good predictor of reading success. There are A LOT of resources out there to help with this – try to make it fun! Large, wooden puzzles are always a great activity and this magnetic Leap Frog set was one of my kids’ favorites.  Find this and more ideas on this site!
  • Difficulty manipulating sounds – this may manifest itself as challenges with rhyming or recognizing words starting with the same letter or sound. Note that if your child had early issues with ear infections or speech delays, that this could have an impact on the speed at which they learn to read. It’s important to ensure your child gets a pediatric hearing/speech screening to rule out any physical reasons behind their struggles.
  • Resistance to reading-related activities – sometimes kids at this age will begin to resist literacy activities, perhaps feeling that it’s not coming easily. Make sure you’re not putting too much pressure on your child and that they’re not picking up on your anxiety around reading struggles. Keep expectations reasonable and take breaks when you’re sensing fatigue or burnout from an activity.

Early Elementary

By first grade, most kids are able to read at least 100 common words (is, as, the, and) and can probably read some simple books by using their letter-sound association skills. Most likely, they are also starting to do some writing, and this will also offer up some clues to possible challenges as well. Here are some common things to look out for at this stage:

  • Guessing at unknown words or letters – when reading or writing, if your child is often frequently guessing at words and trying to use context to figure out what comes next, this could be a sign that he/she really isn’t able to sound out a new or unfamiliar word.
  • Spelling issues – if your child consistently leaves out word sounds or parts, this could be a signal that there is a challenge with word formation. It’s not unusual for a child at this age to leave out or inaccurately utilize vowels, but by the end of Kindergarten, a child should be able to write words containing most of the consonant sounds.
  • Laborious reading and inattention – when a child is asked to read out loud and the assignment takes much longer than others in the class, this could be a sign of a processing disorder. Not surprisingly, when a child is asked to perform a task that is extremely difficult, he/she can be easily distracted or even become frustrated and upset. This can be mistaken for a behavioral problem, when in reality, there may be something cognitively going on that needs to be addressed.

As a parent of a young child, you are often the first person to notice that your child is struggling with reading, however; it’s important to maintain your calm and observe without judgement. Every child is unique and learning to read is not something that happens overnight. Hopefully, this post gives you some ideas on what to look for, but we are always here at Galvin Therapy to help with an assessment or answer questions and we will work with you and your child to develop a custom plan to address any learning challenges together!



Note: We were not compensated in any way for the recommendations or products linked to in the above post.

Photo by mentatdgt

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