You have received one of those dreaded reports from school that your student in grades K through 3 is not meeting the curriculum standard in reading. You immediately blame yourself for not reading to her enough, for having a job, or worse blame your child for “not working hard enough.”
Let’s take a step back. The worst outcome is that your student is selected for small group reading instruction. On the other hand, your student may have “passed” the benchmark, but with just a few points to spare. That student will not be getting any extra help but is certainly not in a secure position. The following will apply for both students.
Does the report break reading into various parts, such as decoding unfamiliar words, fluency (pace and accuracy), recognizing sight words or comprehension? Decoding means that the child breaks words into pieces and sounds them out moving from left to right. An example would be taking the word “deep” and sounding it out: d- ee -p. Or the student knows that when he sees a consonant-vowel-consonant word such as MAP, the “a” has a short sound. A sight word is one that cannot be sounded out and has to be memorized such as: the, one, does, hour, and our.
If your student scored low on fluency, ask the teacher if the issue is slow reading pace with choppy expression, not recognizing sight words (tries to sound them out) or has difficulty sounding out words correctly. You can observe for yourself by having your student read a few lines from a simple book. Are they stumbling on sight words and trying to sound them out? Are they having difficulty sounding out phonetically regular words such as “plum?” Are they making mistakes on simple words such as “of” becomes “off,” or “for” becomes “from?” Do they read the words correctly but sound choppy when they read?
The first conversation should by with the teacher, to share your observations and seek advice about how to address these challenges. Before talking with the teacher, you will want to be familiar with terminology such as “phonology,” the “sound symbol code” and “morphology.” These are elements of Structured Literacy instruction. See the website of the International Dyslexia Association for an explanation of these terms.