Advice about Reading Problems

Parent Q&A

Select any title to view the full question and replies.

  • My 10 year old who is bright and advanced in math doesn’t like to read other than comic books. They also make spelling mistakes for common words and seem behind the curve on sounding out words. They are very bright and have a very large vocabulary. Teachers keep telling us that they are reading ahead of their grade level and I keep telling them that our kid has a high level of reading comprehension because they skip words they don’t know and just read for meaning. I didn’t worry when they were in 1st or 2nd grade but shouldn’t a fifth grader be able to read and write accurately with minimal spelling errors?

    I only have my own experience and my kids’ friends to reference. My first language is very phonetic, so spelling mistakes are rare after 2nd/3rd grade. At age 10, I was reading classic novels and was identified as gifted in literary arts, so I should not compare my kid to myself. Kid’s friends are all reading thick books on their own (Harry Potter, Land of Stories, etc.) and their writing seems more middle school ready. 

    I have always wondered if they have sensory or visual processing issues but they were tested once in 2nd grade by OUSD and the result was normal. I don’t know how reliable OUSD tests are. Kid complains that thick books’ letters are too small. When trying to sound out words, kid very often mixes the order of the letters and sound out letters in a mixed order.

    Should I get the kid tested privately? If yes, where can I go? Should I talk to their teacher when school starts? Are my worries warranted or is this still normal for 5th graders? Kid’s reading and writing level stand out because kid is at least 2 years ahead in math and kid’s best friends are all ahead of them in reading/writing. 

    Thank you.

    Sounds very much like my son (now 13). The issue became very obvious right around 5th grade. high reading scores because he skips words, as opposed to his high math scores because he has mastered the material. i validate your parental instincts but unfortunately don’t have a road map for you. After much agitation it became clear to us that The school district is not likely to provide services to a child who’s at or almost at grade level, given all the kids who are far below. (We were in WCCUSD.) To make a long story short, we ended up finding a good educational therapist who works with our son weekly to scaffold his writing assignments. We haven’t pursued a formal diagnosis because we don’t want to affect his self confidence, but my partner and i think it’s dyslexia or something like that, just not presenting classically or consistently.

    An evaluation seems like a great idea. It honestly sounds like dyslexia. Which is very compatible with a high IQ.

    Our kid turned out to have visual processing issues as well as a specific LD. After vision training (at UCB), the reading issues resolved. Other aspects of the LD are a continuing issue, and continues to require accommodation. Gifted kids with LDs are less likely to be identified because they mostly manage to keep up in the classroom— we ended up doing the testing through UC, and paying out of pocket for the remediation because BUSD wouldn’t provide services for a child who was above grade level even though the specific problem was identified by the teachers, before we did the testing. We we were able to get a 504 plan, as recommended by the UC psych department. On the optimistic side, with necessary accommodations our child did very well in high school and at a highly competitive college. 

    My daughter is about that age and is exactly the same. We have done some independent evaluations. It has been suggested that age has dysgraphia (She is an amazing artist,  but her writing is poor). The most helpful has been that we just did a two-session evaluation at the UC Berkeley Optometry school. She has some problems that need to be addressed through therapy. One of the tests that they do is a reading test where they record the eye movement.  Her eyes were going all over the place, so they are working way too much, so it is no surprise that reading regular books feels harder for her. 

     It kind of depends on your baseline and your expectations. In many higher performing schools, the majority of kids will be well above grade level, and in many lower performing schools, the majority will be below it. Kids hovering near grade level are by definition neither failing nor excelling, but whether that is okay is a little bit subjective, and depends on whether a so-so level of performance in that area is compatible with your child’s, your, and his school’s goals and expectations. As far as spelling goes, it’s kind of its own skill. If he’s misspelling very common, simple words (e.g., talk, room, teacher, etc.), that might be an issue to look at, but if the misspelled words are less common or common but trickier (e.g., height, breakfast, Wednesday) and/or include mixed up homonyms (where/wear, which/witch), I wouldn’t be concerned. English spelling is complicated and takes longer to master. And half the adults on social media spell “lose” with two o’s and write “awe” when they mean “aw” or “aww,” etc., anyway — good spelling is just not as important as it once was. 

    It isn’t uncommon for kids gifted in math to be less developed in language (and vice versa). That said, I would test for dyslexia because you mention that he mixes up letter sounds and order.  My son is gifted in math and hates writing. We had to work diligently every summer for three years to get his writing to where I thought it was ready for middle school. So you may also have to take on some extra work yourself. 

    It’s GREAT that you kid loves too read comic books! Give them all the comic books you can. Providing high interest reading material is key.

    If I understand this correctly, you’re very concerned about your child’s reading level,  your child is advanced in math but not reading, when you compare them to the few other children you know and yourself at that age you worry that your child isn’t as advanced, and your public school personnel is telling you your child’s reading level isn’t a concern.

    I would start by information gathering how the school identifies struggling readers. Nowadays kids don’t necessarily need Special Ed services to get some additional pull-out literacy instruction if they’re screened as “at risk”. I wonder what type of literacy supports they have at the school, and how they identify struggling readers to access those supports. If your child’s name didn’t come up during that screening process, then your child’s school team doesn’t see it as a need for your child, so your school won’t be providing that resource. Instead of focusing on comparing your kid to other friends’ kids, ask how teachers are monitoring your child’s personal growth. Ask to see the data for your child. Also try to understand that not all kids love to read, and that’s not necessarily a problem.

    Pursuing independent evaluation can be very costly (I’m talking at least a few thousand dollars). It might be more practical for you pay for a private tutoring service if you’re still very worried, and see what that organization has to say.

    Take care

    The testing by OUSD was solid when we had it done - if you had a full IEP work up. But for some of what you’re describing, I think it would be well worth having more testing done privately.

    Part of the tone of your letter reads strangely to me, as you’re speaking of your child. Your kid is not a carbon copy of you. It doesn’t matter what you did at their age. They’re an individual with talents that are different than yours. I’m sure you’re well aware that most kids in 5th aren’t reading sophisticated texts. Many can barely write a sentence. That’s why they still have at least 7 years of basic school left. Many high school kids don’t write well and will read almost no “classics” outside of a classroom. This is true for literally billions of adults. 

    Testing will be worthwhile to rule out complicated issues that may not have been caught by standard IEP testing. And it will help you to learn what’s reasonable and compassionate to expect from a 10 year old. 

    Yes, I think you should have them re-evaluated. It may be a language processing issue, but also may be a tracking/visual issue that vision therapy may help correct.

    I would not entirely trust OUSD's testing, I would have them privately tested. It sounds like a form of dyslexia.

    As the parent of one LD kid and 2 high schoolers, I can tell you the reading/writing will only ramp up from middle school, tons in high school.

    Good luck!

    I would also like to add a recommendation for a vision evaluation at UCB optometry. My daughter was having eye fatigue and didn't like reading in 4th grade, so we had her evaluated. She had tracking and focusing issues, so she did the recommended eye therapy. After a few months of therapy and eye exercises, her reading level and comfort with reading improved. It was not cheap, however, and insurance didn't cover it. 

    I would also add that my 11 year old son is not a strong reader, prefers comic books, doesn't write well, and has atrocious spelling. He does read at grade level and since he attended a Spanish immersion elementary school, we feel he he is ready for middle school. That said, we are toying with finding him a writing tutor -- his fiction writing is very creative, but his essay writing is pretty weak. Best of luck to you!

    Mother of a 10-year old here, rising 4th grade. My son is great at math, has a rich spoken vocabulary, loves being read to, but never reads on his own because “it’s not fun.” At the end of 3rd grade he apparently was reading at grade level - at last - though at a slow rate, and his comprehension wasn’t great due to all the cognitive effort to decode the words on the page. However he was also asking me how to spell words like "how" and "why.” I was baffled as he could read these words but could not spell them. This also impacted his writing, where his creative expression felt very stifled by the effort to spell and his tendency to use the shortest words possible.  

    Finally I had him assessed this summer at Lindamood Bell (LMB) - 4 hour assessment, $$ and very revealing. In his case, he had tremendous difficulty picturing the letters for a word in his mind – “imaging” they call it. This explained a lot! We made the $$$ investment in the LMB tutoring program, which can be in person at their center or online. In our case it’s been online, which I was initially skeptical about given our experience with crisis learning, however the difference is it’s 1:1. We doubled down this summer with 4 weeks of “learning camp,” where he did 4-hour afternoon sessions on the weekdays with LMB teachers. LMB principle is daily sessions. It sounds grim but there is a different teacher every hour and the teachers are really engaged and connect with the kids. They break it up with little games and kid-friendly chitchat. I heard him giggling, sharing about his day, etc. AND he is making real progress decoding words and understanding spelling rules and strategies. He gets to ask all his questions about why something doesn’t “make sense” with a real educator who can answer them.

    We will finish up the program hours when school starts. For me, success would look like my son spelling more age-appropriate sight words correctly and that he finds reading and writing easier going forward. I’ve asked LMB to integrate more spelling into the final program hours so I can see progress in the area I’m most concerned about. I agree with the other replies about getting a thorough assessment of some kind. For me it was clear that something else was going on. I did not have much support from school in 3rd grade when I expressed concern. As others have noted, he tested reasonably well on their reading tests b/c of his coping strategies, and frankly they are understaffed and there are kids with much greater needs and fewer resources. Wishing you good insights :) 

  • Reading Specialist for 7 year old

    (2 replies)

    Looking for recommendations for a reading specialist for my 7 year old. He has not been officially diagnosed with dyslexia yet, but is struggling to read despite a strong desire to do so and love of books. We just started doing the Barton System with him as it has been so difficult to find any specialists with openings during quarantine. I’d really appreciate recommendations for reading specialists—- especially those who may have current openings. I’ve contacted several people and they are all booked!
    Thank you. 

    Ours is also booked, but we found her through this site: Find An Educational Therapist - AET : Association Of Educational Therapists ( - and there are many listed for our area. Our DD was diagnosed with dyslexia at the same age and finding a skilled ET made ALL the difference - good luck!

    Hi Dara,

    I highly recommend Jane Ashley. She has a ton of experience with dyslexia, is patient, kind, creative and very successful. I worked with Jane on various issues that my Asberger son had over the years and have benefited greatly from her experience.   She uses the Sllngerland method for Dyslexia and teaches in South East Berkeley. (510) 601-9780 / janeashley [at]

  • 15-year old can't (really) read

    (14 replies)

    This is painful and embarrassing to write, but my 15-year old son (10th grade) is an incredibly poor reader. He knows how to put words together and can read them out loud, very haltingy, if forced. But he takes nothing in. I have sat next to him while he "read" a book (pausing the appropriate time on each page and then turning it) but when asked what the book was about, he will have no idea. He says that he just "looks at the words." I try to find opportunities for him to read - "hey, can you read out this recipe" or "can you look up this on the internet" - but he will get out of it if he can. He hasn't even signed up for drivers ed yet because I told him he had to research the requirements, which requires reading - and he can't wait to drive! I read aloud to him until he was 13, and we've had tutors in the past (including Linda Mood Bell), but nothing has moved the needle. Is there some training, some miracle worker out there? Thanks!


    This is a big problem, and you have clearly been trying to help him with tutors, asking him to find/read short things to help you, and so on. But as you have noted, this hasn't been enough. It sounds like your son may have a processing disorder of some kind, such as dyslexia. My suggestion is that you have him tested for learning disabilities ASAP. I've heard that this can be easier to arrange for students attending public schools, but I don't know. 

    For your son's sake, I hope you do this soon. I'm sure your embarrassment isn't helpful. There is nothing shameful about a learning difference; everyone has them. Instead of embarrassment, try to imagine how hard this is for your son. He probably feels like he's failing you and not living up to your expectations. School must be hellish for him, since he is probably working to hide his reading difficulties, I'm betting he expends a lot of effort avoiding any activities that rely on reading comprehension, such as book discussions, contributing to social studies discussions, etc. I would imagine he also suffers socially, since so much of how teens communicate with one another is now textual. I imagine that he feels shame most of the time, since he can't successfully process information that is so central to operating in our society. 

    So please, put yourself in his shoes, and try to come from a place of empathy, rather than shame. And don't expect there is a 'miracle worker' out there who has a wand to wave that will resolve all of this. If his learning disabilities can be diagnosed, the psychologist (or whomever conducts the tests) should be able to suggest some professionals who are experienced in working with students with those particular disabilities. It is unlikely that he will ever be someone who reads for pleasure, but he may be able to develop reading skills that will allow him some ease in navigating school and his life.


    It breaks my heart to hear how painful and embarrassing this is for you. It’s obvious that your son would be reading if he could. This is a more complicated problem. There are many different kinds of learning disabilities and I would recommend that you get him evaluated. Dyslexia is a common one that comes to mind that makes it very difficult for people to read. It’s obviously no reflection on how bright he is or how motivated he is.  It’s just a processing issue. I’d start with his school because public schools can get kids evaluated. But I will tell you it is often a struggle to get them to pay for it. There are private people that do it and probably cost around $2500 or so. I suspect there are other people that will make professional recommendations to you. It will be a great relief to you and your son to put a name to this and then you can start getting the resources he needs to help him cope. Good luck!

    I am so sorry to hear about this. Your son has definitely suffered embarrassment at school--Question: is he being bullied? Mine was & I didn't know enough to ask.  As an adult, he's learned coping methods. As for your son: have you had his eyes checked?  Are you looking into dyslexia help/training.  Has he been evaluated for 'special' education -- sadly the word 'special' carries such stigma, but truth is, our children do have special needs.  An evaluation---search for a qualified one (BPN parents can help--- my son grew up in Texas).  You want to start an 'official' record on his learning challenge(s).  Then he can qualify for focused training now and later when it's time for him to seek work. The state of California (like even in Texas, will pay for this training. Is he in counseling?  Bullying, self-shaming...big challenges requiring help ASAP.  All the best.

    Have you ever had him tested? This is a classic sign of ADD and there is help for that. He may also have be dealing with a form of dyslexia that is getting on his way. I never got tested as  kid and at 50 discovered I have ADD when we got our 18 yr old daughter tested recently. If only I found us both help earlier! Your son is struggling for a reason, Find it.

    PS:  In addition to my suggestions earlier--- getting your son evaluated for dyslexia (NOT in school, but by a full-time professional-- check out your local REGIONAL CENTER--they offer services for free, and exploring with them will be another line on his official record of learning challenges,  Actually, I suggest you at least email them in beginning.  IF they respond within 3 business days, then that's another 'record' for his official file)..ALSO I suggest therapy (while you may still have an influence in the matter)  & investigate hearing, ----NOTE: Back to bullying:  = instead of asking IF he's been bullied, ASSUME he has and instead ask something like "How do you feel when kids tease you?"  Unfortunately, even teachers end up  hurting our kids by rolling their eyes, and other non-verbal actions  ---main thing is for him to know you are aware he is suffering in social settings..   Listening?  What is his LISTENING comprehension ?  If it's mostly ok, then please explore with him recorded books. Especially short stories-the shorter the better--he may have a form of ADD--a short story will provide a sense of success. Maybe he has no interest in a recorded book-- my son didn't in the beginning. Maybe find a recorded book, easily understood, on the history of cars, etc.  Later, explore if there's an oral drivers test and/or if your son can have one of the DMV employees sit next to him & read out the questions. Again, however, FIRST he needs an official record of his learning challenges (In meantime, I want to underscore--- please don't have him read out loud. I know you feel/felt it would help him --you love him very much-- but for your son, it increases his sense of "There's-something-wrong-with-me"  Maybe at some point, down the road that will be part of his recovery process.  Thank you so much for being his mom.

    If you haven't yet, please please please get an assessment for your son. I have one kid with dyslexia and one with ADHD. They both have struggled with reading out loud and remembering what they read -- but it turned out that for each it was for very different reasons.  And as a result, we have had to take different approaches for each. For that reason, I would say it would be hard to recommend any special training without understanding what is going on inside for your son. To get an assessment, if he is in public school, you can ask the school for an IEP and 504 evaluation.  DREDF has information and sample letters you can use to understand the process and how to request assessment.    You also can do a private assessment and BPN has plenty of recommendations.  Meantime, as a parent, I send you empathy. It is so painful to see your child struggling and not know how to help. I am glad you reached out for help here.

    Nothing to be embarrassed about!  I am sure that other parents will respond similarly but it sounds to me as though your son has a learning disability that keeps him from reading fluidly and from processing what he's reading.   I'm sure others will be more familiar with the types of testing that is done for that but this does not sound as though it's his "fault" of any kind.   If a learning disability is diagnosed, there are strategies to help.   good luck!  

    I feel for you and your son. Reading is such an integral part of our functioning in this world, and it must be so challenging not to have that skill at the ready. I don't actually have any great skills-based recommendations, only an emotional one. This may not seem possible or fit how you're feeling at all, but I would advise you to take a big hug from the collective parenting community and kick your embarrassment down the road. There is NO need to feel embarrassed, a first cousin of shame. Everybody on this good earth is born differently with unique abilities and characteristics--and everybody is worthwhile and good enough just as they are. You've obviously been a diligent parent, and your son has clearly pushed himself as well. I think it's wonderful that you're reaching out to this community to expand on approaches to help your son. I hope you receive a ton of good suggestions from others more informed than me, I'm a former teacher and i have no judgment whatsoever about what you're going through. I just hope that your son can find a school that is GOOD ENOUGH for him and his unique learning style. Everyone can learn--but we all do it so differently. Is he an experiential learner? Then hopefully he can find a school environment that is more doing focused than text-processing focused. When I struggled with a writer's block in high school, my mother gave me some great advise: "Work around it. Don't let it stop you. Hire help--narrate what you want to say into a tape recorder and get someone else to type it." That worked! And eventually my Writer's Block resolved itself. She reminded me that CEOs can't do everything and they delegate and think of work as team effort. I don't know if this is helpful to you, but I hope that your son can hang onto a healthy ego that understands that they way our educational system is set up, it's demands and structure, aren't meant for everyone because it's somewhat inadequate to meet all needs. Good luck to both of you. - Sarah

    Hi there - it's ok, at least you are discovering it now and it's never too late! Our DD was assessed at 7 and again at 13.

    Your son needs a psych/ed evaluation, either through a private provider, through your school district, or through UC Berkeley's Psychology Department which does community educational testing. He sounds like he has some kind of learning difference, either dyslexia or a processing disorder - and these can be remediated with help from an excellent educational therapist - not just a tutor. Because he's already in high school please contact your local school district office and get him evaluated ASAP and then contact an educational therapist from this site: Find An Educational Therapist - AET : Association Of Educational Therapists (

    BTW - I HIGHLY recommend going through a private psychologist (many are recommended on BPN, including Dr. Jack Davis in Lafayette) for a complete psych/ed evaluation IF you can afford it as it will be faster and your son's assessment will be more complete.

    Where has he been in school all this time? What has his teachers & school said about this? They should be helping you with this! You don’t need a miracle worker. And tutors aren’t necessarily trained to help with a specific LD> He needs to be tested and he needs a plan to treat him.

    We realized in 3rd grade our daughter was struggling and it took years for her to learn to read She went to see a learning specialist twice a week during the school year and three times a week during the summer and by 5th or 6th grade she was reading at grade level. We tested her in 5th grade and confirmed her diagnosis of Dyslexia so she could get accommodations in middle and high school. She is still a slow reader but attending a top 20 university despite being dyslexic.

    I second the recommendation for contacting DREDF! They would be the absolute place to begin for information and help given the info you've provided. Start here: Best wishes, and know you are not alone. 

    Hi - Your post brought back memories for me. My son was younger than yours, but I also came to the realization that he couldn’t read. He was a really good faker! We did a private assessment that identified him as dyslexic. He then worked with a private and excellent educational therapist named Jamie Keller. ( He learned to read with her. She then taught him to write ... because he also didn’t know how to formulate and express ideas. It was a journey but so worth it. I also found the book “Dyslexia Empowerment Plan” to be very helpful, especially about how to integrate “ear reading” (listening / books on tape) as a tool when needed, as well as the shame kids feel when they are hiding. Best of luck to you. 

    I want to share our experience, just to give you a variety of viewpoints.  My son was also a poor reader in high school; he would read the first syllable of a word, and guess the rest of the word.  It was disheartening to me.  He had reading assignments and I tried getting him the audiobook versions to support him.  Nothing in school engaged him, math, science, electives, nothing.  His teachers from when he was younger said that he had no learning challenges, so I didn't know what to think.  He tells me now (at 25 years old) that he just wasn't interested.  He started reading a year out of high school, not out of academics, but out of an interest in furthering himself, self improvement, making money.  He became a fan of Tim Ferriss and The 4 hour Work Week.  It took him 2 years out of high school to be ready for academics, went to junior college, graduated from UC Davis in Economics, and now has a job in finance. There are several people in our family, who I call Late Bloomers, and I have always held this concept for my children who did not thrive academically in high school.  I can certainly understand the pain it brings to a parent, but holding on to a future vision for your child is a gift.  I recently watched a SF Public Library video from author,Jason Reynolds and the Transformative Power of Reading and Writing.  He was the 2020 National Ambassador for Young People's Literature.  This talk is directed to young people, and he shares his experience on not being interested in reading at all in high school as well.   Not doing well in high school can be demoralizing, and following your child's interests can help, though teenagers can put up a lot of walls that are hard to get through.  Time and maturity can bring some relief.  Wishing you all the best. 

    Have you had his binocular vision tested? It's not the usual vision testing for corrective lenses. We found out last year that my (then 13 yr old) has eyes that don't follow along at the same time, so it's hard for her to see the text, even though she doesn't need glasses. We were told that she needs vision therapy, but she hasn't started it yet because we don't yet have her buy-in and faith that she'll do the daily exercises. UC Optometry does testing and therapy, but we did it at a place in SF. Others have recommended the MindEyeInstiture in Chicago.

    The recommendation for an assessment came from a neuropsychologist evaluation. Of course dyslexia testing might be something you've considered. My daughter has both, and both were surprises. 

    Happy to talk more. Good luck!

  • Reading/Learning assessment for 1st grader

    (3 replies)

    Hello Wise BPNers,

    Can anyone recommend where to get a generalized learning assessment for a 1st grader who is struggling with reading?  Our daughter is doing well in math and other subjects, but really isn't able to read very well.  She resists working on it and we would like to figure out how to best help her. Getting an evaluation through school is likely not happening anytime soon for obvious reasons.  We would like to get her a tutor or something but we think an overall assessment would be good to do first.  There are so many options out there it is a little overwhelming. We are open to paying out of pocket if necessary.  We live in Oakland.

    Former literacy specialist here (worked with first graders). If you want to get a quick sense for yourself, you could google and administer the DIBELS assessment. One thing you're trying to determine is whether your child's comfort with 1) sight words 2) letter names and sounds 3) phonetic words (both real and imaginary) -- it may well be a combination or all, but the ways you'd help your child to target each skill would look quite different. Good luck!

    Not everyone is a fluent reader in first grade. The best thing to do is to read to them. And to look as if you enjoy it. :-). 

    I have a son who is quite dyslexic. I didn’t catch it til third grade and can now kick myself for that. IF you are in public school, I believe you need to let the school do the first assessment. Not sure if they will still do that now or not, given the closures and CoVid. My son was in BUSD and I had to hound them to do the assessment, but they did, and it was a totally terrible assessment. Then, I asked for an IEE at District’s expense, which you are allowed, as I didn’t have $8K lying around. Finally, after I filed a complaint with CED because they dragged their feet for a year (yes, a year), they were forced by CED to okay the IEE. Dr. Terry Doyle in Rockridge did it, and she is the AUTHORITY, if she still practices.  Anyhow, cudos for you for seeking out an assessment sooner rather then later! It was HUGELY helpful for us to have the assessment, and for my son, plus we then got way more specialized and useful help, which finally got him to read. He went from K level to grade level within a year with Jane Ashley, our lifesaving Slingerland tutor. All the best! Again, kudos for looking at this sooner rather then later! And, our son totally resisted reading too. It’s just soooo hard when you have visual or auditory processing issues (his was auditory processing). 

  • Anyone have any experience with the Reading Program offered by Institute of Reading Development through Cal State East Bay Extension?  it is a 90 minute/week program that runs for 5 weeks.  Considering it for my 9th grader who doesn't read enough and would love to hear from someone with a teenager on whether it was helpful or worth it.

    The Institute for Reading Development program is not a research-backed program. If you are worried about your child's reading it is best to get an evaluation to figure out what is going on with your child's reading and get advice tailored to your child's needs. A lot goes into skilled reading: background knowledge, vocabulary, decoding skills, processing speed, visual processing. Lindamood Bell has a relatively low-cost assessment. It is usually $500 but you can almost always get half off by looking on the web or simply asking for a discount. Also, many educational therapists like myself do reading evaluations. A reading evaluation can help you understand the source of your child's reading difficulties and provide recommendations.

  • My middle school daughter attends a public school in Marin and has an IEP for reading. I want her put her in Linda-Mood Bell for a 5 week intensive intervention. The school won't allow her to go during the school day so I plan on disenrolling her for the 5 weeks, and then re-enrolling her after she completes the program. I have 3 questions: does anyone have experience with this? Specifically, do you know of an online school whose credits will be accepted when she re-enrolls? Also, will her IEP be automatically reinstated or will she have to requalify? Thank you so much for your help, advice and suggestions!

    I do not have experience with pulling out of school, but our friends did leave in the middle of school year for about a month to visit family in their home country. They timed it around winter break, and took two weeks off school (one before one after). Their kid was in elementary at the time and they got an assignment packet from the teacher. It is designed for leave of 5 school days or more and if it is completed after return, the school does not loose money from the state for the student's absence. Winter break is over, but may be your school has Spring break coming up? I do understand the need for Lindamood-Bell intervention. My youngest is dyslexic and spent 7 weeks past summer at the Berkeley center. It made a huge difference for him.

    Please do not do this. I am sure that you are at your wits end to consider such an idea. I understand your frustration and probable panic at the issues facing your daughter and family in school. Please do not take her out of school for 5 weeks to do a program like this. 1. This will be very harmful to her academically. She will miss math and other content that will always present a 'hole' in her learning. Wait until summer. 2. This will present a terrible challenge to her socially -- it will disrupt friendships in ways that you cannot necessarily predict or control Friendships are the life of many middle schoolers. 3. LMB has limited success -- some kids respond, others don't. It's not worth taking her out of school for this. Please, please don't do this.

    This doesn't sound like the best approach to me. You're risking a lot by disenrolling her and why should you have to? She clearly needs more help than the school can give, to the point where you're willing to spend a small fortune to get her the help that she needs. I'd probably talk to a lawyer about this and I'd ask for the school district to not only allow her the time off but pay for it as well. If they can't provide your daughter with the resources that she needs, they need to pay for her to get it somewhere else.

    Even if you don't get a lawyer, I'd escalate this farther up the food chain than you have. Let them know that you'll be getting an attorney if they won't play ball and you'll be asking them to pay for the program if you're forced to do this. I'd go to the superintendent if you haven't already.

    Join Parents Education Network (PEN), $40 per year  They are based in Sf yet have incredibly strong support networks all over the Bay Area for families with LD kids. Many of the parents have been through similar issues. You may want to consult with DREDF or a special ed attorney.

    good luck,

    Parent whose LD teen ended up in boarding schools to get the targeted learning attention he needed.

    Thank you so much for all of your replies! I had spoken with the school administrators and the school superintendent about intervention but trying to get them onboard with LMB - even missing 1 hour a day - was not going to happen with them.  I did pull my daughter out, she is doing 4 hours a day of LMB and being privately tutored by a credentialed teacher in math and science.

    This seems to be working really well and she is still seeing her girlfriends from school. Socially, my daughter is happy and adept so although I worried about that piece, it seems fine. 

    I'm not sure this works for many families but it seems to be working for ours. I really appreciate your responses.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Kindergarten & 1st Grade 2nd & 3rd Grade 4th - 6th Grade Middle School

Kindergarten & 1st Grade

My kindergartener is falling behind in reading

Jan 2015

The recommendations are a bit out of date so I'm writing to find out if anyone has any recommendations for a special education tutor. My daughter is five, in kindergarten (public school), and falling behind in reading. Her teacher suggested that we reach out to a private tutor because while she thinks our daughter could use a little help, doesn't think she'll qualify for the resources at school. We're not sure what the learning issue is. We do know there is a deep current of dyslexia throughout the family. On a personal level I have half a mind to just give the girl time -- maybe reading will take her a bit longer and it'll happen when she's developmentally ready for it. That said, her confidence is waning, she is frustrated because she sees she is falling behind the other students, and she really wants to know how to read. Any suggestions on who we might speak to? Dyslexic mom

My daughter was put in ''Reading Recovery'' in first grade. This was mystifying to us, because she was very verbal, had an awesome vocabulary, and loved books. As part of figuring it out, we had her eyes checked- even though she had no evidence of problems. It turned out that she had a binocular vision weakness- almost perfect vision, but difficulty staying focused on small detailed things like text.

The School of Optometry at UC Berkeley has a great program for evaluating kids, and they assessed her for many different things that could be causing her reading delay- check them out!

The Ophthalmologist who evaluated our daughter said that up to a third of young children have binocular vision deficiencies, and that it's the push to get them reading so young that is causing a lot of the problems, since many would grow out of it.

In our daughter's case, she did daily exercises for about 6 months, with bi- weekly or monthly checkups (Saturday & Sunday appointments!). Most of the exercises were like games, and she mostly enjoyed them. We saw results quickly- within a couple of months she was reading fluently. I would also say that it turned out that my daughter is an auditory learner, and although she reads well, she still understands and retains best when she hears (and discusses) information. We used audio books for her all the way through school, as a supplement to her reading. Kim

I have worked with young children for many, many years in many settings. What I have noticed is that most children learn to read right around six. A few do it earlier, some aren't ready until a bit later. But consulting a specialist because your five year old is not reading would be like consulting a physical therapist because your 11 month old is not walking. Unless there are other signs and symptoms that something is wrong it is probably a waste of time and money. If you ask around you may discover that the children in her class who are reading have already turned six. The trouble with teaching reading in Kindergarten is that it makes children who are not developmentally ready for the task feel like failures. Not a good way to start school.

Can your daughter identify letters, especially the letters in her name? Can she rhyme words? Can she identify words that start with the same sound? Does she make representational drawings? Does she enjoy being read to or hearing stories told out loud? If so she is developing pre-reading skills and you can assure her everything is fine. She will begin reading when her brain is ready. Right now her brain is busy with other things. Focus on things she is good at and enjoys. Read stories together with her on your lap so she can see the words but don't expect her to read them. If your daughter is still not reading as she approaches age 7 there will be plenty of time to consult a specialist then. Good luck to both of you.

I have used both Genie Barry and Bill Baldyga, who are both reading specialists, for my kids. I don't have either number on me, but you can search either online. I have no idea if either one of them has openings at this time. I wouldn't wait. Both of these reading specialists will just get your daughter where she needs to be, in the best way possible. Sometimes if you wait, the class can pass the kid, and then they miss it. Other times, there actually can be a learning issue, which is just that, just an issue. Some kids need things presented to them in a different way. Confidence can get you far in life. Best wishes to you. I used to struggle myself

I do reading interventions for elementary school students. In general, I don't work with kindergarteners, but I make occasional exceptions. My usual advice to parents of K students is to give their children time. I have noticed, from years of experience, that most students make the biggest leap in reading between first and second grade. Some do it on their own, some need extra help.

Let me give you examples of my own children. Both of my sons (4th and 7th grade) read far beyond their grade levels, but neither one of them was above the grade level by the end of first grade. During the summer break before the second grade started, my older son wanted to read a book that was above his level at the time. Seeing his frustration, I worked with him for a few weeks until he was able to read that book without any help. He has been advanced reader ever since.

My younger son did the same leap about the same time, right before the second grade, on his own.

That said, if not being able to read is causing your daughter too much stress, maybe you should think of giving her an extra push.

As one that has seen students transform from struggling readers to confident and passionate ones, I can't tell you enough what a joy it is to be a part of that transformation. Reading Specialist Mom

5yo reads fluently but doesn't understand what he's read

April 2010

Our 5 year old reads very fluently (he can even read things like high school science books) but when we give him a story to read, he has trouble following it. He knows the words and what they mean, he just doesn't understand what is going on and isn't able to guess what might happen next. This is also true if we tell him a story or if he watches a movie. Is this something that will get better over time or are there things we can do with him to help him? Are there tutors who help with this sort of thing? He is in Kindergarten now but I feel like he gets a pass on this because he is SO good at reading & writing words. Anon

This is a time to read very simple, vivid stories with your son -- so that he can catch on to the narrative. Try Kevin Hankes, George and Martha, Amelia Bedelia, Junie B. Jones, Ursula Le Guin's Catwings Books, My Father's Dragon. Don't be afraid of reading picture books. You should probably spend some time in the children's section at the library and just browse the books they leave out on the table. Children often have asynchronous development, and your child has figured out some parts of reading, but has missed others, so your goal should be to fill in the gaps. Read easy/very easy books with him for 15 or 20 min a day, and talk about the stories together. I also would be as enthusiastic about reading books ''below'' his decoding level, as those at his level. anon

Please please please wait a few yeas to worry about your 5 yo reading. Kids develope at such different rates. It's impossible to know if a kindergartener has processing/comprehension issues at this age. Keep reading, encourage reading, pay attention, but don't make an issue. mom of learning issue teen

He's only 5. what a lot of pressure! Reading is developmental. Most kids at this age who can decode, cannot understand, just like your child. He's got to have lots of experiences talking about books with other kids, teachers, etc.. and being immersed in literature. It doesn't happen overnight. It doesn't just come naturally. This will only come with time. He's way to young for you to be worrying about this. teacher

There are many reasons kids can read the words in a book and still not get the content. You might try ''setting the stage'' by reviewing what the story will be about before reading it together and making sure he has some background knowledge. He might do better with very short books with frequent stops for you or him to summarize and check for understanding. It may be that the science books have graphics that also help him understand the text, so you may want to look for books with lots of illustrations, or draw your own pictures together. If he likes science you can also find kids' books on topics of interest. Finally, he may be an individual who has trouble forming mental images or pictures as he reads. He is a bit young for it, but the Lindamood-Bell Visualize/Verbalize program can sometimes be useful as well. Hope this helps. Jan

My child is still only an infant, but I've worked with children your child's age. I wouldn't be concerned. I imagine your concern stems from your child having such good word recognition and phonics skills and much less developed reading comprehension. Consider the fact that your child can technically read so well as a bonus. If his reading comprehension was also well developed, he would be a rare prodigy. Many children his age aren't able to predict or follow that well. They can watch the same movie twenty times, and they're still surprised. Is he interested in stories? Please don't hire a tutor for your 5-year-old to improve his reading comprehension. Just read with him and help him to enjoy reading. That will go a long, long way. avid reader

It sounds like he's having trouble visualizing what he is reading. It's something that I would talk to his teacher about and try to get him help for. There are some great books to help teach visualizing. Visualizing and Verbalizing for Language Comprehension and Thinking by Nanci Bell is one that I use in my classroom. I find it to be pretty fun and engaging, something that you could practice with your son and not have it feel like punishment. You can find it at amazon. Good luck, annon

This sounds similar to our son's story in many ways. I think you are wise, perceptive, and lucky to be so aware of his strengths and challenges. Trust your intuition. People may tell you that you're an overanxious, hovering parent or that your expectations are too high, but I don't think you'd be posting this if you weren't sensing something unusual. Our son could read well above grade level as tested by word recognition, decoding, and fact- based reading comprehension questions that asked for short, concrete answers that could be found in the text. However, on carefully administered comprehensive testing of reading comprehension, which looked at his ability to draw inferences, interpret what he read, identify the main point of the passage, etc., he was way below grade level. He loved to read non-fiction with us, but from toddler years on had little patience for most fiction, though formulaic series books sometimes caught his interest. In the early grades, this isn't a problem because the emphasis is on the type of language skills that come easily to him and, apparently, to your son. Starting in the end of third grade, when more complex written expression and reading comprehension are expected, he began to struggle and starting with fourth grade, things went steadily down hill. By middle school, he couldn't do the work.

Maybe things will improve in time, maybe not. I don't know what to suggest for right now, but if and when you are ready to seek help, I'd recommend a speech and language pathologist who specializes in language processing issues and semantic language, or perhaps a neuropsychologist. Those are the types of professionals who helped us. Others (learning specialists, psychotherapists, tutors, most teachers) didn't have the right experience to recognize the nature of his struggles or help him, and he wouldn't have grown out of it on his own. The school was not helpful and denied there were learning problems because he could read words so well. Once we obtained an outside report and fought for help, he received some good language therapy from an SLP within the school, which we had to supplement with extensive outside support. He's now in college, reading fiction still isn't his thing, but he's doing fine. another parent

If he's in a public school [at least BUSD], he'll be tested next year for his ability to comprehend what he so easily decodes. You're doing the right thing by getting him to read more age-appropriate stuff and then discussing it with him, but next year, if he hasn't improved, he'll likely get help at school with the reading specialist. The comprehension problem [even with fluent readers] is really common. -jmf

I would suggest you read A Mind at a Time by Mel Levine. It has a very interesting section on reading and language that talks about how problems can arise at any level in language.

Kids who have no problem decoding and reading words can struggle with semantics--sentence level--or with discourse that requires them to infer or make conclusions. He recommends strategies to build these abilities. Of course, your 5 year old may simply not have enough context at this point to understand the complex things he can read. It may be a simply matter of waiting for his brain development to catch up. On the other hand if you feel he is worse at this than his peers he will benefit from the kinds of brain workouts (during dinner, while riding in the car) that Mel Levine recommends.

I engaged my daughters, 5 and 10 in a discussion of irony (abstractions) on a hike and they were quite interested, and even more pleased when I asked them to tell me again what those pretty little blue flowers were and they said ''Forget me nots!'' I never can remember what those things are called. How ironic!

I also asked them what two meanings the sentence ''I wonder how those fish smell'' could have. They loved the games. This book has ideas for working on language, but what I really like about A Mind at a Time is how Levine goes into detail on where the problems can occur and how to address specific problems.

Good luck! Susan


Entering first grade -- reading over summer?

May 2010


Wondering what others have done or are planning to do with reading and their kindergartners over summer. Our son will be starting grade 1 in fall and is enjoying learning to read now. We read at home together and he is approaching the point (not there yet though) when he can read simple stories alone.

So it seems too bad that he won't be in school getting regular reading practice over summer. Obviously we'll keep reading with him at home, but are there formal or informal programs or plans or reading schedules that would help keep up his enthusiasm and learning during the three months off?

What kept the flame alive for your kids? Anon

Our local public library has a summer reading program - the kids get rewards at 10 and 20 books, I think. The books can either be read to the child, or read by the child. It's a fun way for kids to stay motivated to read over the summer, so I suggest you check out your local library. Also, there are usually reading programs for the younger kids (assuming he can sit for a period and listen to the librarian read) and yours should fit right in. Marin Mom

All libraries have summer reading programs. The kids read books of their choice and earn prizes, get their names posted on the wall, etc. Many local bookstores also have summer reading programs. Ask your local children's librarian to recommend books for kids his age, keep reading to him even though he's beginning to read, and share your love of reading, bookstores, libraries, etc. This is such an exciting time! Mom of kids who love to read

Hi there, My advice would be to not worry about it in a structured way but to just continue to foster your child's love of books and reading! Ideally reading will be fun for your child, something he (she?) goes to for comfort, fun, relaxation and curiosity. At this age that is all you need. Just read together as much as you can over the summer. Talk about signs you see outside, occasionally point out how two words are similar, have him read out loud to you from a simple book, keep the pressure off and just READ! The rest will come -- really. Mom of two readers


Kindergarten child not yet reading

March 2005


Our kindergarten daughter has an early fall birthday, and although she loves kindergarten, she seems far behind her peers in reading, letter recognition, and so on. As of March, she recognizes only 19 of the 26 letters, and has similar issues with number recognition. Although she is progressing well at this point, her peers in her class are already reading. Her teacher has hinted that she thinks it might be a good idea for our daughter to repeat kindergarten. Our questions to you all are:
1. What assessments do we ask for? We do not know if our daughter is simply developmentally behind, or if she has a learning disability with symbol recognition;
2. Socially, what are the pros and cons of holding her back? Thus far, kindergarten has been a wonderful experience for her, and she interacts well with all of her classmates.
3. What programs/tutors are out there for kindergarteners to help them learn to read? If we can help her during the spring and summer, she will most likely go on to first grade. If not, we do not want to send her to first grade if it will be frustrating and too difficult for her.

Thanks for your ideas and experiences! Berkeley resident/private school

Your posting made me feel a little bit sad for you and for your daughter. Do you remember what you did in kindergarten? When I was in kindergarten (forty plus years ago), it was a place to play and socialize. In the past decade, academic curriculum has been pushed down lower and lower, so that now in many preschools children are being forced to focus on academics rather than on the play that they should be doing. Anyway, the point here is that it is TOTALLY within the realm of normal development for your child to know only 19 of her letters, etc. In a public school, she'd likely be right in the middle of the academic range. In your private school, perhaps the school screens for children who are more academically advanced in the first place? Or perhaps, as is often true in private schools, many of the children in the kindergarten actually ARE several months older than your daughter? If you trust the teachers and feel that overall the school she is in is the right one for your daughter and your family, then it is probably best to trust whatever they suggest - I am sure they have retained children in kindergarten many times before and have a sense of its effects. My understanding of the research is that retention is rarely actually advantageous, but as a preschool teacher I still often recommend that children with fall birthdays spend an extra year in preschool, and parents have anecdotally reported back that they are pleased with the effects of the extra time. I do believe that the research supports that the earlier the retention the less negative effects it will have upon a child, so now might be the best time for you. I hope that if you look for and find extra tutoring for your child, it will be fun, engaging, and not too pressured. Nanu

Our son was also a late reader and had problems with symbol recognition. His teacher tried a lot of various methods, (writing in the air, drawing in sand, tracing with a finger, etc.) but by the end of kindergarten, he could recognize and remember probably only 4 or 5 letters (and he was one of the oldest kids in the class). The breakthrough was enrolling him in one-on-one tutoring at Reading Revolution. They use a method where each sound is matched to a hand signal (they call them Sound Movements), and it was like a miracle for my son. The hand signals seemed to be the magic pathway that allowed the information to get into and stay in his memory. We started him the summer after kindergarten, and after three weeks of daily one hour sessions, he could read simple words. He continued with weekly tutoring during first grade and part of second grade, at which time he was reading above grade level. He is now in fourth grade and is a total bookworm, reading way above grade level. He had three different tutors, all of whom were good and seemed to be well trained, both in their methods and how to work with kids. They do a good job trying to make the lessons fun and active. There's a Reading Revolution center in Oakland (by the Grand Lake Theater), and they do assessments. You could start there with an assessment and see what that tells you.

As far as repeating kindergarten, it's hard to know, but if she were to make a breakthrough she could catch up very quickly, so I would be concerned if the only reason for holding her back was because of the reading issues. Mom of a voracious reader

Don't hold your child back! THe research shows that itis a lasting emotional scar for kids to have been held back, no matter what the circumstances (late fall birthday, for example).

Get Hooked On Phonics. It is fun to do and it is now available for $140 at Costco (instead of the usual $300). I bet your child just needs some one-on-one time doing phonics. I taught my 6-year-old to read with it a couple years ago and she really enjoyed it and now I am teaching my 5-year-old and she loves it, too. It doesn't hurt that we play a game where I put out the sight word cards with a chocolate soy nut (from Trader Joe's) on each one and she gets to eat the soy nut (or mini chocolate chips---Nestles in the baking section---they are really tiny) after she reads the word. Another thing to do is to take a square block and tape one sight word to each side and write each sight word on a piece of paper. Then have her roll the die and read the word and put a tally mark next to each word on the list as it comes up on the die. She keeps going until she has rolled all six words on the die. Then count the tallies and see which word got the most.

Hooked on Phonics has a good method and if you do it with your child you'll know what she is working on. Then take every opportunity to point things out that she can read as you are walking around town. Today, for instance, we saw a sign that said ''Dogs On Leash'', so I had my 5yo read ''Dogs On'' and I read ''Leash''. It is exciting for them to realize that the world is full of things that they can read. (Same with numbers, by the way, point them out wherever you go).

The stories and illustrations in Hooked on Phonics are great and the CD of games that comes with the first box is superb.

If you would like someone else to work with your child over the summer Ivy Sandz is terrific. You can find her online at: She teaches reading and writing in a little cozy cottage behind her North Berkeley home and has great rapport with kids. Good luck! susan

Hi, I am a former elementary teacher; I taught first grade and special education for grades K-6. I have extensive training and experience in teaching reading. From what you describe, I would guess that you have a developmental lag on your hands and not a learning disability. Generally, learning disabilities present themselves across the board, not specifically in certain areas of the cirriculum.

Following are my suggestions for things to think about:

While it seems common that kindergarteners learn to read, it is a more complex situation than you may realize. First, it isn't a developmental expectation. If your school expects kids to read in kindergarten, your child is a victim of ''curriculum shove-down'' where curricula gets ''shoved down'' to the grade below in order to keep up with (unrealistic) expectations of people in the school community and/or by the pressure exerted by the state mandated testing. Secondly, are you sure the other kids are really reading? This is difficult to ascertain, however, some kids have great visual memories and can recognize words by memory and where the content of what they are reading is fairly simplistic, they can easily figure out words they don't memorize and appear to be reading. I've even seen kids completely able to memorize simple books because of repeated readings by adults. Other kids use their memory skills to apply a phonetic based approach, but have no idea as to what they read in terms of comprehension. Other kids use the pictures to trigger the printed words. All of these situations I've described above can be a part of the process of learning to read, but by far, none could truly be described as reading.

Your child may also be a ''victim'' of a skewed student population, where most of the children are performing above grade level... when you compare kids in a class, someone has to be first and someone has to be last... your child's teacher may in part be motivated by this... I knew a regular education teacher who automatically referred for special education evaluation the bottom 3 kids in her class every year, for no other reason than they were the bottom 3... she was just covering herself in case problems came up later on down the line in the upper grades.

It is also within developmental norms that your child has not yet mastered the alphabet/numbers. However, your child is likely at the low end of those norms. I believe that your child's age is likely a factor here. In the early grades, the age span can be almost a year difference among the oldest and youngest children in a classroom. This makes a huge difference in terms of development. Typically, this developmental difference is seen among boys, who tend to lag behind girls in their development, but I've seen it with girls as well.

You are now in a bit of a sticky situation. If she repeats kindergarten, it will likely be a bit of a blow to her in terms of her own sense of self as well as socially with the other kids. However, if she fails to catch up and falls further behind in first grade, she may not be able to close the gap at all. The curriculum goes faster and faster with each year, and the teachers tend to expect more. If you are leaning towards retention, do it now. Although she may struggle with the issues I raised above, in my experience, she has the best chance of getting past it the younger she is. By the end of first grade, in my experience, it will be too late.

If you do retain her in kindergarten, find out specifically how the school will handle it (same teacher or different one?, etc.) and what the school will do (if anything) to help assure that your child will benefit from the experience the second time around. While exposure to the same curricula will likely offer your child the chance and time she needs to grasp it because she will be developmentally ready, what will they do if she ''takes off'' quickly, masters the subject matter, and needs more of a challenge than is offered in the kindergarten curricula? Ask how the school suggests you handle it with your child- how to explain it, etc. If there isn't a school counselor, contact one privately for advice... Barbara Waterman is wonderful... she's reviewed on this site and her contact info is given.

Ask for a meeting with the teacher and principal together. Ask what the school's standards are for promotion and retention. Ask them, in their experience, whether they see signs of learning disability or whether they feel the issue is her developmental readiness. If it's developmental readiness, I'd feel more comfortable retaining her.

If they suspect learning disability, you should ask the school how to pursue testing for learning disabilities. Act on it quickly, as the school year is drawing to a close and there are deadlines to meet once an evaluation begins, so at some point there is a cut off for new evaluations until the next school year. If you are beyond the cut off date and learning disabilites are suspected, pursue the evaluation privately if you have the means. Ann Martin Children's Center is one I've heard recommended. I had a student who was in a similar situation as your child at the end of her kindergarten year. Her parents did not retain her in kdg and had her in SCORE all summer and all through first grade. She was bright, caught on quickly, and was one of my best readers from the start of first grade. She had a late fall birthday (November- close to Thanksgiving). Socially, she was a bit immature. The SCORE experience gave her confidence in her abilities and mastery of the skills she needed to be a successful reader, both in terms of decoding (phonics and sight words) as well as comprehension. And she LOVED it. Of course, not knowing your child, I can't say whether I think it would help. My general advice is that it likely would help if your child is having a developmental lag. If there are learning disabilities, I would be less certain without knowing the specifics.

I hope you find this helpful. Best of luck to you and your child. The best thing you can do for your child is be her advocate and keep her out of the fray as much as possible. Kids know when they don't measure up with other kids, even if no one says anything directly. She needs you to tell her that you want to help her do her personal best (not be the best among all the others) and that you love her no matter what. -a former teacher

I think that 'holding' your daugher back for another year of kindergarten is not a bad idea. You have noticed that she seems to enjoy it so why not, where's the harm? There will be no social stigma for this, and she will hardly know the difference. Pushing your daughter to read faster at a pace that is not yet comfortable for her might do her more harm than good. My brother repeated second grade, and he told me in later years that he liked that he had, because that made him a little bit older that his classmates, and thus, cooler. Lisa

I am not sure what your child is eligible for in private school, but in public schools you can ask for an IEP or 504. The IEP requires an assessment to see if the child has special learning needs and then requires the school to set up the individualized education plan to accomodate them. A 504 plan addresses specific areas of learning. Both require assessments, and I would strongly urge you to talk with your school to see what you may be able to get through them or through the public school system (which can be very good for these types of needs).

I would also encourage you to keep an open mind about giving your child another year in kindergarten. We made the decision to hold our first grader back last year because of maturity issues (that were affecting his ability to get work done and keep up with the rest of the class). Academically he could probably have moved on, but we were persuaded to give him the extra year. While it was painful and discouraging and humbling for us at first, I can genuinely say without any hesitation at all, that it was absolutely the best decision we could have made. Our son agrees as well.

Our son is now at the top of his class and in a leadership role that he is very proud of. His confidence has gone through the roof, and he doesn't despair that he can't keep up with the rest of the kids. He is doing things in first grade again that I know he would never have been able to do if we'd just moved him on to second grade. I think he would have fallen further and further behind, which would have taken a far greater emotional toll on him. It took a bit of adjustment during the first few weeks of school, but the other kids didn't care and no one made fun of him (which was our primary concern, even though it would not have been tolerated to any degree in the school).

Both his teacher and the school principal were spot on in everything they said to us about the retention and I am so glad we trusted their experience and insights and didn't try to push him ahead. They actually persuaded me to just let him enjoy the summer and not put him in the more rigorous academic camp I had been considering. We did find a college student to work with him a bit and I know that helped. We moved him along in the same activities with his age peers, so he had that continuity. The retention actually helped him expand his pool of friends, and that's a pretty big point to express should you decide to give your child an extra year. We were really warmed by the support we got from other parents, friends and teachers as well, who love our son and understand that he is a late bloomer.

At this age, it's really important to remember that education is not a sprint. School is a marathon, and the more time we give our kids to find their stride and develop the toolset they need to succeed, the better it is for them. While it might be difficult for them to adjust to their ''redshirt'' status, ultimately they (and you) will understand that another year of kindergarten or first grade or whatever it is that they need is a gift that will help them through the rest of their academic years.

Good luck with your decision. Relieved redshirt mama

I'm a Credentialed teacher and reading specialist trained in Reading Recovery. In my years in education we've seen pendulum swings in the teaching of reading. I have not met your daughter, but I have worked one on one with first graders who tested behind the rest of their class and did not like reading. I've also worked with small groups of kindergartners at the end of the year and been able to make some signifigant changes.

In recent years the phonics emphasis has made the reason for reading and writing less clear for many students. I can't make any guarantees, but I would be willing to do an introductory session free of charge. There is a lot more to reading than letter sound knowledge. It's important, but some children don't hook into why they should read if they think it's merely the decoding of books they don't like.

A lot can be learned between now and September, particularly with parental support. Confidence in reading can change a child's perception of themselves. Carol

I have a question for you....were you reading in kindergarten? I wasn't and none of my peers were. In kindergarten we played, learned to socialize, did role playing, colored, sang songs, and played some more.

In first grade we started learning letter recognition and writing. I was not a reader untill 3rd grade. My 14 year old son was reading in kindergarten...he's never stopped. My 10 year old son is in 3rd grade and doesn't much like reading although he can do it...but couldn't read well last year in 2nd grade. My point is that kids develop at different ages and if parents in your child's class tell you that their kids are recognizing all letters and reading, they're either lieing or there is an unusual group of kids there.

I believe it's the Waldorf School that doesn't even teach reading till kids are 8 or so.

Please don't worry. Your child will read. Please don't pressure her(I think you said daughter...forgive me if I'm wrong). She really will read when her little brain is developed enough for her to read. If she happens to have learning difficulty, it's too early to find out at this age anyway. If the teachers are pressuring you or your child, I'd find a different school. Hope this helps. you can tell this really hit a sour note with me. mom of a reader and a non reader

We are in a public school in El Cerrito (Harding) so I can't speak to how privates deal with the issue but perhaps hearing about my son, a struggling reader, might be helpful to you. I won't address the retention issue but will share some insights about how kids learn differently.

At the end of kindergarten, my son wasn't reading. He wasn't the only one in the class but it was noted on his report cards that he had a weak visual memory. We didn't do anything during the summer between kindergarten and 1st grade. We wanted him to enjoy his summer camps and have fun. We figured the reading stuff would evolve naturally.

At the end of first grade the teacher began talking to us about ''learning difficulties'' and suggested that we get someone to work with him during the summer. She also said we might want to consider getting him an assessment through the district in 2nd grade if things didn't improve. We decided to hire a private learning specialist (with a Master's in Special Ed) to work with him 3 hours/week during the summer. She used special multisensory learning tools to help him with blended letter sounds, reinforce his sight word vocabulary, and build his reading endurance. I think she brought him up half a grade in just 7 weeks.

Now we are reaching the end of 2nd grade and he is finally reading, and really enjoys books. He loves anything about volcanos or robots. He reads more slowly than other boys his age but the teachers are really great about breaking the lessons down into smaller bits for him and they are utilizing a volunteer (a retired schoolteacher) who works with him individually for 30 minutes per day. She helps him using a program called ''Handwriting Without Tears'' and gives him extra time to read the weekly ''assessments'' that are required by his school.

We are having him assessed next month by the district which may entitle him to even more accommodations than he is getting currently. And he will see his learning specialist this summer too because they have an excellent rapport. I've spoken with the special ed teacher at our public school and she uses some of the same techniques as the expensive private educational therapist we've been using!

Also, my son is a quick study in math and has an amazing oral memory so the principal suspects the assessment may come back as ''gifted'' in one area and learning disabled in another. It's more common than you would think.

So what I've learned from all this is: 1. If you decide to use an outside educational therapist, ask them to meet with the classroom teachers as soon as you get into 1st grade. You'll be perceived as someone who is eager to ''partner'' with all the adults who are invested in the success of your child not as someone demanding services. You want everyone on your side. 2. Kids have strengths and weaknesses. A deficit in one area does NOT mean your kid is learning disabled in all areas. Your school should be compassionate about this. If they aren't, consider finding another school. 3. Public schools for all their deficits are an excellent place for kids with learning disabilities. They've got more resources to offer parents. And teachers are quite sensitive to early identification and support for these kinds of students. 4. Early intervention is key but it's also important to realize that kids brains are wired differently and they will do things on their own schedule. Whether your kid reads in preschool or in 2nd grade really doesn't matter that much. As long as you help them to love learning by feeding their interests, you'll have a lifelong learner. 5. Don't indulge in blaming yourself. It's a waste of time. Your time is better spent being patient and persistently pursuing all the resources available for your child. --proud mom of a struggling reader

A kindergartener who is not yet reading is NOT ''developmentally behind''! I am really frustrated by the constant pushing down of academic expectations. To label your daughter as ''failing'' because she is not yet reading seems unfair to everyone. My daughter was nowhere near reading in kindergarten, but by second grade, couldn't put books down. She now attends a very selective high school, and is one of the top English students in her class.

I can't advise on tests, retention, or considering changing schools, but can only express my sadness that it's come to this!

Let's try to recognize that kids learn to read at different times, and at different rates. You say she is progressing, so I suspect she is developing in other areas right now, and will make more progress if you let her do it when she's ready. Mom of ''late'' reader

Hi there - I am very glad that you posted because the issue you are stating is one that affects all parents, I feel. First of all, I am a Kindergarten teacher of eight years trained in working with children with special needs and in a regular elementary setting. I am currently getting my Master's Degree at Mills in Early Childhood education. YOUR CHILD IS NOT BEHIND IF THEY CANNOT READ IN KINDERGARTEN!!!! (I wish I could tattoo this on my forehead and walk around...) While I am sure this teacher has a reason for this statement (political, lack of training, etc.), she is simply developmentally incorrect. Your child does not need tutoring, she needs time and developmentally appropriate language and literacy experiences to develop vocabulary, comprehension, basic skills, and a LOVE OF READING (a key component that many educators are leaving out these days). Drilling your child on sight words, taking them to tutoring, or sending a message that she is ''behind'' will not assist in this process.

Sorry - enough of my soapbox. Do you like this school? This teacher? Can you have a constructive conversation about this with the teacher or administrator? Do you have choices for next year? What are they proposing you do? How is your child reacting to ''reading instruction'' at school? Do they feel frustrated? Like a failure? If so, I can tell you that those feelings last a long time...and they will affect him/her in many areas of their education.

If you like, please contact me off-list - I would be happy to help in any way that I can. (My knowledge of schools that might better serve your daughter is limited to the East Bay though.) But I can also give your other questions to ask your teacher in order to work through this issue and ideas of how to counterbalance this situation at home. I wish you well. Theresa

Your child is not behind! Don't worry. Many Kindergardeners leave Kindergarden not knowing how to read. It isn't a requirement that they read, it couldn't really be, because Kindergarden is not manditory and if kids come into the first grade with no formal education, then they can't read, and they're still put in the first grade. Don't worry, please, about your own child. My daughter wasn't reading in Kindergarden (just a LITTLE bit, but practically no comprehension) and she is now by far the fastest reader in her class, in fifth grade. Your child will bloom in their own way and time. Zacharias

I didn't see your original post and I really like the supportive answer the person who responded gave you. I would also like to say don't worry but there is one problem. The way things are going now, they are pushing children to learn to read in public school in kindergarten (and this effects private school curriculum as well). It is wrong, it is developmentally inappropriate and I am totally against it. Yet is is happening. Because it is, children can feel bad about their reading ability or can begin to fall behind. That said, some kids actually do need some extra help because reading does not come naturally for many children, especially when beginning at such a young age. Because your child needs to keep up, I think it would be worth getting your child assessed and perhaps doing a tutoring program.

I was told my child had problems in kindergarten and I took action because my son was beginning to feel bad about lagging behind his classmates. We consulted with a really amazing learning specialist in Oakland, Dr. Ariel (Orna) Lenchner. Best decision we ever made. Because my son really was having problems hearing the different letter sounds and that was what was slowing him up. She is terrific with fidgety kids and very fun. She helped him distinguish between letter sounds and taught him all the phonics rules and now he can sound out any word he sees. He is in first grade this year and reading at grade level. It took a few months of weekly sessions then all of a sudden it clicked. Dr. Lenchner could assess your child and make a recommendation. Here's her website and phone number:, Phone: (510) 655-2952. Good Luck!

In your post, you recognize that your daughter's recent anxiety toward gymnastics class is caused by the fact that she's not performing as well as the other girls. In the past she's has had easy success, and this sudden ''failure'' is upsetting to her. In addition to the supportive comments you make to her, I also encourage you emphasize that it's OK to fail at some things. Lead by example--let her see you do something and fail (hopefully something not too serious or traumatic), and also let her see how you react to and, hopefully, overcome that failure. For example, when I was teaching my kid to ride his two-wheeler, he also saw me crash twice (too distracted watching him ride his wobbly bike), once into a rose bush (ouch!) and once on the asphalt, scraping and messing up my knee in the process...but I got back on my bike and kept riding. Kids need to learn that it's OK to fail at something, the main lesson being how to stay persistent and overcome failure (or know when to let it go). I don't know she is aware that you describe her as ''gifted'', but it would be a good thing for her to recognize that all people, including herself, are good at some things, and are not so good at other things...not to say that people should only stick with things they are good at, and give up on the things they are not so good at. OK to fail

I read with interest the ''Sensory Motor'' Indicators for reading readiness from a Waldorf perspective and I don't think any of this resonates if your child truly has a learning disability that is preventing them from being able to read and write. Children with LD are often very motivated to read, are trying very hard, and see that they cannot keep up with their peers who are reading. It can be quite frustrating for them.

We are not in a Waldorf school. We attend public school and my son was ''introduced'' to reading concepts in kindergarten. He was not expected to read until 1st or 2nd grade. Beginning in first grade, his teachers noticed how smart he was in other ways but how much of a struggle the reading was for him and they suggested he be evaluated for LD. He was evaluated in 2nd grade and diagnosed with a learning disability that prevents him from being able to retain the shapes of letters in his visual memory. It has nothing to do with balance or overall coordination. It is not related to occasionally playing video games or watching TV. These are myths that most reputable pediatricians and learning therapists dismiss as irrelevant to a serious reading problem. anon


Helping my 1st grader to read

Dec 2003


My daughter is in 1st grade and according to her teacher she is ''behind'' in reading and math, but might catch up by the end of the year. Today my daughter expressed for the first time that it is very hard for her to see everyone else read or count to 100 and she is not able to do that. Aside from reading every night I would like to help her in some other ''systematic'' way. (We do a lot of games around words and numbers, but nothing real systematic, where one game builds up on the next)Are there reading or math programs that parents can do with their kids? There are no previous posts on this question. I heard about ''hooked on phonics''. Does anyone have experience with it? I'd appreciate any advice very much.

My homeschooled daughter learned to read between 6-7 years old using the book _Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons_. It's only about $12 on or you could use it from the library. 15 minutes of snuggle time a day. It doesn't work for every child, but the information in the first few chapters is useful for any parent wondering about the path toward reading. Stefani

Be patient!!! I'm a teacher, have taught all ages, and have seen all kinds of things in children learning to read. First grade is a hard year because kids develop skills at such different rates--It's hard for the kids, like your daughter, who see others accelerating and recognize their own lack of progress. I taught 2nd and 3rd grade for many years and often had students even at the beginning of 3rd grade who struggled with reading...suddenly, sometimes mid-year or even end of year, the kid just started reading fluently and easily. Reading is so complex and for kids who learn in other ways (not visually) it's harder!

What I think is soooo important for a 1st grader who is getting discouraged is to keep her interest in reading and her confidence up. I now teach older students and I see so many who learned to read late, read at grade-level, but don't like reading adn don't want to do it. I attribute this to their early experiences with reading and their having felt 'stupid' for so long when they were young.

There are several things I think you can do. First, I don't like the phonics programs much--unless your daughter is clearly having a problem with phonics. Check with her teacher about that although it's a little hard to determine if that's her problem reading in first grade.

You said you read every evening--GREAT! Keep doing that. An enormous part of learning to read is listening to stories and discussing them. Although she can't read the words on her own, she CAN comprehend and respond to literature. Talk about what you read, ask her to make predictions, ask her to re-tell you the story, discuss characters, why they do things, prompt her to ''connect'' with characters or situations. Get books that are repetative--she'll memorize the story quickly and can say the words with you, which gives her the feeling of ''reading.'' Emphasize that reading is UNDERSTANDING, not being able to just say the words. She can develop many important comprehension skills until the time she can actually read books alone. She'll be a more advanced reader in the end. When you read to her, model things such as running your finger along with words fr! om left to right. Point out things like periods, and tell her that they give you a clue to pause...

But more than anything, try to allow her to develop a love and appreciation for reading. Talk about why reading is important, why it's pleasurable. And don't let her catch on to your anxiety about her skills. At the same time, it might be useful to try to identify and strengthen any skills she has--does she like to draw? Encourage that! Get her into an extra art class, have her illustrate books, either ones she writes or supplements to books she already likes. If she is a physically active kid, encourage that. Or musical...This will give her more confidence in general and the development of many other skills is very connected to language/reading development.

Unfortunately, our education system is really narrow and limited--it is really hard on kids like your daughter who probably don't have any real problem reading. The pressures on young kids, first graders, is too much. Kids learn at different rates and in different ways. but teachers/schools don't emphasize this enough and it's hard on kids.

There's tons to read if you want on reading--look at Invitations and Strategies that Work. Hold off on the phonics and worry though, at least for a couple years... Good luck. Elena


Reading help for 1st grader

May 2003


My six year old first grader is at the ''bottom'' of his class with his reading skills and up to the ''norm'' in all other subjects. He and I do all the recommended things: we read daily about things he is intested in, work in a phonics workbook and most recently invested in the ''leapfrog computer'' system. We give him praise and created a special reward chart. He is not grasping reading at all - both the sounds and word recognition. I'm permanently disabled so cannot afford programs like the Sylvan learning center. If he doesn't make progress soon, it looks like we will have to hold him back a grade based upon this alone. I welcome any and all advice you have for a child who is struggling with reading. I'm open and fairly flexible with my time schedule. Thanks in advance

A couple years ago my first grader moved schools mid-year and was behind in what was considered the standard for her age at the new school. She was assigned to the school reading specialist who referred me to Orton-Gillingham phonics program. I purchased their kit for parents (it was about $100) and I worked with her through the summer...second grade was o.k....and now in third grade she is at the top of her class. I honestly don't know if this program helped her, or if she just suddenly was ready to start reading. I'm not a teacher but it seems to me that children are ready to read at very different ages...At the same time, I don't think the ''whole language curriculum'' she had been receiving was working for her and she needed a new approach. Good luck! You can find information at www.orton- Patricia

I work with the lowest performing students in first grade as a Reading Recovery teacher. I work to get the child up to the middle of the class. I wonder if your school offers any support. Reading aquisition is so intricate and most children put the pieces together and build a system of strategies in which they use to read. Some students, for a multitude of reasons, don't put it together for themselves as easily. These students need some help.

I understand your worry and concern. Your doing the right thing by understanding that this is something that needs attention. Your praise can only help. He needs to feel from you that this is not the end of the world. Even though inside it is really hard for you. Unless your child has a learning disability, which more often is NOT the case, than just know that soon he will put it together. He does need intervention though. What kind? Retention is an option. But if it will impact him socially it may build walls that restrict learning. So retention is an option that needs to be weighed from many different sides. The intervention of resources from school, reading teachers, resource specialists, etc. Summer reading programs (which during this budget crisis are being cut).

You need to meet with the teacher and the principal and yourself and have an SST (Student Success Team), this is a formal meeting in which the concerns and interventions are discussed. The teacher should have called for this earlier in the year. But, it's not too late. Plans made for the rest of this year as well as beginning of next year. Also discuss what is offered over the summer.

I understand you don't have the money to pay for tutoring. I have seen Sylvan and other programs really help my low performing students (this from when I was a 2nd grade teacher for many years). If there is any way you can beg or borrow the money it could be just what he needs. Continue to read with him at home. Have books at home that he can easily access, one line per page with lots of picture support. Make books with him about things he knows. With very little unknown vocabulary and pictures (from camera or homemade drawings) to support. Books about mom, dad, cat, house, park, store. These will be his books that he can read to you and feel successful. Slowly you build his vocabulary. Learning sounds and expecting him to just know sight words like, the, and, etc when there is no context is too much. He needs to have what he learns have meaning in his life. Books like: ''I go to the park'' -''I go to the store'' and it's the store and park he knows can help begin a vocabulary. Use what little he does know, no matter how small it's just what he needs. Only give him a little bit more at a time to learn. But most importantly, from home, that reading is enjoyable and non-stressful. good luck yancy


2nd & 3rd Grade



Support for struggling 2nd grader in public school

Jan 2010


My son is in second grade in a small ''progressive'' private school. He is not yet reading -- he has a few sight words he can recognize, but has difficulty sounding words out, and makes wild guesses based on the initial consonant in the word and whatever clues he can glean from context (e.g. guessing the word ''baby'' is ''birthday'' on a mylar balloon). His teachers seem distressingly unconcerned about this, and also don't seem to view it as their problem -- their suggested ''solution'' during our parent- teacher conference was for me to hire a reading tutor -- which I've done, but I can't really afford $300/month for a tutor on top of his school's tuition.

I'm wondering what experiences parents of struggling readers in public schools have had with support, or lack thereof, from the school for their child's learning difficulties? I have the impression that public schools may actually do a better job, at least compared to our particular private school, in helping struggling students to catch up to grade level? I am seriously considering switching to a public school next year -- we live in Oakland, but I'm willing to move if necessary, so I'd be interested in hearing about experiences with any East Bay public schools -- especially in Albany, Berkeley or Alameda. (BTW, I'm aware that I can have my son evaluated by the public school district for learning disabilities and possible IEP, and I'm working on making it happen). Thanks in advance!

I have a daughter in the Oakland Unified School District and I am working on my teaching credential.

The advantage of having a child in public school is all of the rights that you as a parent have. They are numerous for you as the parent and for your child. This list is not exhaustive:

1. You have the right to have your child evaluated by specialist and to have that report integrated into your child's DAILY learning experience.

2. You have the right to call meetings with your child's teacher, the principal and all experts that work with your child when you want, need or request them.

3. Your child has the right to individual tutoring if found to have a reading deficiency.

4. You have the right to review all of the assessments of your child's ability - these are not tests, but assessments to find what your child knows and to create a plan. Good teachers explain assessments well and make them non- threatening to students.

5. You have the right to free summer school to assist your child so there is not a 3 month learning gap.

Please know that you will find schools with overall high test scores and low test scores. When deciding what school you want to aim for your child to attend, sit in a few classes and see how the teachers treat learners of different speeds - some children will learn the material for a school year in 3 months - others need 11 months. Children are not robots and quick learning does not make one child better than another - just different.

I wish you and your child a happy school experience. Personally, I feel the vast majority of public schools do the same or better at educating children as the vast majority of private schools. As a friend with a child in a large private school in Oakland said - I know your child is getting a better education than my child, but if I miss a school meeting or appointment, they track me down to give me the information. You have to be responsible. You have harsh florescent lights - we have a Starbucks atmosphere - for me, the gentleness of the way they treat me as a parent, it's worth it. Couldn't have said it better myself.

Hi- We had the exact same experience, as have many other private school families. Private schools simply do not have the resources to help children who need something different from everyone else. Our very expensive private school suggested we get an outside tutor, which we did, for $85/hour. The teachers did not know how to help her, and our daughter became more and more angry at her inability to read as the other children in her class.

We transfered her to a public school--and not one in a fancy, upscale neighborhood. Our public school is nothing fancy, and in a somewhat poor neighborhood. Guess what? Her third grade teacher at the public school moved her TWO GRADE LEVELS in one year! The school addressed her needs from day one, offered extra support, testing, intervention, and a huge dose of self esteem! Now in the seventh grade, the support has been on-going, from teacher meetings, intervention, and so on.

Had I known, I would have moved our daughter to a public school in kindergarten and saved her years of pain. Pro-Public Schools!

I teach at a public elementary school in East Oakland. I taught 3rd grade for most of my career, and did not receive any additional support in helping struggling readers. Most of the teachers (myself included) just had the struggling readers come in an hour before school to get extra help, and we tried to work with them during ''workshop'' time.

For the past two years I have been working at the same school as a reading intervention teacher. I work with struggling readers in small groups for 30 minutes every day (this is separate from the special education services that the school provides.) Our school has chosen to fund my position, but it has always been tight due to budget constraints, and there is no guarantee that we will have funding for it next year. In addition, all staff at our school were trained in a very useful protocol to use to help struggling readers. Our very talented literacy coach has been instrumental in making this a priority in our school and in providing support to all teachers so that those struggling students get the help they need. We have, as a result, seen our reading scores go up.

But ultimately it depends largely on the school. The quality of literacy coaches, teachers, and principals varies tremendously from one school to the next. And severe on-going budget woes mean that what a school offers may change from one year to the next.

I hope this helps. Good luck in getting your child the help he needs. T.

My son is a 2nd grader attending attending public school in Moraga, and has been struggling with reading as well. The phonics part is what has been a challenge for him - I think he is more of a whole language reader, which is the way that I learned as a child. He has no problem reading the short chapter books that are designated as Level 2 (like the Arthur books), but the longer chapter books (like the Magic Treehouse ones) are a little more challenging for him. When he gets to a word he doesn't know, instead of trying to sound it out (the phonics piece), he'll just throw out a wild guess like your son. But if I force him to stop and try to sound out the word, he can often figure it out. We met with his teacher & the principal. I was very impressed with their perspective, as they were focused on coming up with strategies to help him succeed. For example, his class sometimes does reading of stories from a textbook, and because he reads slower than many of the other kids, they gave us a copy of the textbook to take home, so that he could read the story in advance. When we asked whether we should look into getting a reading tutor or enrolling him in something like Kumon, their response was No. They felt it was too early to go that route, as we needed to figure out what the underlying problem, if any, might be so that we could address the root of the problem. His teacher also did not want to damage his confidence, or to turn him off from school and learning, and told us that if the weekly homework assignment was too much for him, we could back off as much as we felt we needed too, which was surprising to me. We chose not to do that, as I didn't feel the homework was a problem for him (he has the typical 'not wanting to do it' behavior, but he is definitely capable of doing it). Our school also has a Reading Tutor program - he gets 20 minutes of one on one time with the tutor. Although he is pulled out of the classroom to meet with his reading tutor, we have seen a definite improvement in his reading through this program. In summary, we have been very happy with the support that our school has provided to us. Hope this helps... Moraga Mom


1st grader reading below grade level - how to help

April 2010


My 1st grader is reading below grade level (bottom 3 in her class), she has recently been tested and does not have a learning disability. She attends a school that is routinely rated a 9 or 10 on She is smart and generally happy. We have always been very good about reading to her, with her, and taking an interest in her schooling. I have been a SAHM since she was in K and I have been very active in after school activities and classroom support, which she appreciates. She has recently made some progress with a tutor that she sees twice per week. The tutor feels she needs to build reading confidence and practice. Please give us some constructive advice about how to help her with reading. We found the tutor through other parents - but her school can't seem to offer any advice -ugh! anon

My son was in the exact same position at that age. During the summer I had him read to me every day. He sat on my lap and I'd give him a hug every time he managed to sound out a word he was struggling over, and lots of verbal encouragement. From second grade on, he was a top reader and always tested way beyond grade level in the California standardized tests. Francesca

Hi- been there. My advice would be to go to Lindamood Bell as soon as you can to get their test. It should pinpoint exactly what is going on with your child's reading. My daughter was the same way, and while Lindamood Bell is a commitment not to be taken lightly- expensive and intensive, it does work and your child will be a reader. No one reading program will work for all children, so even though your school is good, their program isn't reaching your child. Sometimes it's just a matter of getting a child's reading level compatible with their interest. It's good that you're doing this now because waiting causes real problems. Best of Luck

Why don't you follow the tutor's advice? Have her practice reading at home. Make sure she's not tired or hungry and has a quiet place. The best things for her to practice with are familiar texts. Ones she has read with her tutor or classroom teacher. ask either professional if they can send these already read books home in a bag, and you can return them daily/weekly or whatever. If she struggles with a word, tell her the word. (that's not necessarily what her teachers would do, they would have her use some strategies to see if she can figure out the word herself, but you're her parent, you don't have to be like her teacher). Just 10 minutes a day like this with you will hopefully boost her confidence and fluency level. It's important to remember that lots of kids struggle with reading and sometimes it just hasn't ''clicked'' yet. Don't be too hard on her or you. And why did her teacher tell you she was in the bottom three? You didn't need to know that. 2nd grade teacher and mother of a first-grader who also struggles

I, too, have a first grader who reads under grade level and attends one of the best public schools in the East Bay. Her teacher recommended summer school (although we decided against it because of our already scheduled plans). She has a tutor that comes to our house every week to work with her for an hour and a reading specialist once a week at school. She has made tremendous improvement, specifically in the last few weeks. All of a sudden it just clicked! I know that every child develops at a different rate and when we were kids they didn't even teach us to read until 2nd grade! They are pushing the kids to learn things at a younger age than they are ready. The best advice that I've had was to make sure you have books with words he/she knows or has seen and practice those books over and over-- like once a day for a week. Also flash cards with th high frequency words have helped us. There are ''high frequency word'' games online for free too. Good luck and stick with it!!! There is a movie/ documentary that just came out and is being shown around called A RACE TO NOWHERE about how our kids are over pushed. Our principal had a viewing for our teachers and it made quite an impact. mom of struggling kid

I have a friend who is Danish. She told me that in Denmark they don't start formally teaching reading until children are nine years old because studies show that is when kids are all ready to read. She said kids pick up a lot before hand but when school starts teaching reading in about third or fourth grade the kids pick it up in a few weeks.

Maybe your daughter is just one of those kids who isn't going to really ''get'' reading until she's a bit older. Is there a way to work with your school to give her time to grow?

Sounds to me like you are doing all the right things. Maybe the system doesn't match your child. another mom

Give her time and love! If it's not already, make reading a part of your nightly routine--maybe you read most and she reads a few sentences here and there at first, then a while down the road, you can alternate pages. Make sure reading is first and foremost seen as a rewarding, fun activity, not something she's forced to do.

It's ridiculous that we expect all kids to read fluently as first-graders. A really developmentally-based program (which most US schools lack) would realize that many great adult readers required years of exposure and practice before they were ready to read on their own. A teacher

I think you should let her be. She will take off with her reading when she is ready. I know of a homeschooled kid who was a poor reader, but his parents never pressured him to read. Finally, around age 8, he became interested in something and the only way he was able to learn more about it was to read. His reading took off! He was reading college-level material by age 12. I cannot imagine what all this pressure to be a good reader must be doing to your daughter. She is so young!! When I read posts like this, I am glad to be homeschooling my daughter. She will blossom at her own pace without the labels that schools give to kids. Nicole

My son is in the exact same situation except that the bottom 3 in his class are at grade level but still below the others. His school provides daily reading help with a reading specialist for 30 min a day. (If this isn't available thru the school system I can imagine it would be expensive!) This has REALLY helped but this month was the first time he has EVER wanted to try to read a book on his own without us forcing it. The magic book was ''The Cat on the Mat is Flat'' and the next one he wants by the same author is ''The Big Fat Cow That Went Kapow''. I can't tell you how much reading this book has given him self confidence and the realization that he can enjoy reading! (Oh and we said it was a present from Grandma so that it wasn't from us, who are always pushing the reading.)

I think the extra help is essential, but I can't tell you how many times I have heard ''Oh my kid was the same way and then one day it just clicked and now he's a great reader.'' I'm starting to think some of that is true. Don't know if this has helped. Gwen

WHAO!!! 1st grade? The first thing I'd do is get rid of the tutor. Did the teacher tell you to get a tutor? I'd change teachers!!! Come on....She's in 1st grade!!! Kids develop at such different rates for years that you really can't test or tell what their abilities are at that grade level unless they are severely deficient.

Relax and let her be a kid. Encourage her to read, don't pressure her, read to her a lot. Turn off the TV.

I hope you get a lot of similar responses from teachers and other people in the know. mom of child w/ learning differences.

My advice is to try not to worry too much. I know it is easier said than done, but first grade is awfully young to be ''behind.'' If you check the CA Dept. of Ed. website, you can find the reading standards for first grade. Perhaps she actually meets them, and the school is just pushing for a little more. Anyway, kids develop different skills at different times. They are not all on the same schedule. Keep paying attention and doing all the wonderful things that you are doing, and see how she's doing in a year. Elem. Teacher and Mom

I was having the same problem. I did three things.

1. I upped the amount I read to my son- I would read all kinds of books at any time to him and this helped him tremendously! He wanted me to point to the words.

2. I bought the Leapfrog Tag system The tag system lets him play with the words and hear them read to him and then he slowly weaned himself off the tag for the easy books.In fact, he would read me the story because he knew the words after a while so it built his confidence and reading ability. They have fun phonics games and rewards at the end of each book.

3. I had him read to me..super easy books well below his reading level ( which was low) so he could build his confidence.

After a few months, this seemed to help him gain more confidence and read better. Good lUck. been there and its getting better

I know how concerning this can be, but my main advice would be to stop worrying. Reading below grade level in first grade is not necessarily an indication of any problem, as development is especially differential at this age. My 2nd grader was below grade level in reading in 1st grade and is now doing great, and time was the main thing that helped her. The other thing that helped her was confidence. She was extremely self-conscious about her ability in first grade and therefore reluctant to try. Her teacher was great about encouraging her and reminding her that she was doing well (she was making *progress*).

Have you ruled out learning disabilities? Dyslexia etc? If not, do so for your piece of mind. I hear the Linda Mood Bell reading clinics are very successful at working with children who have specific learning disabilities that make reading difficult. If you have ruled this out or don't see any real indicators of this kind of problem, stop worry and have faith that your child will get there, that you have given him/her good exposure to books and reading. And maybe dump the tutor if that seems to be putting pressure on the child.

And finally, try to keep perspective. Being in the ''bottom 3'' in reading in first grade is no indication of a lifetime of failure and misery. Chin up, Reading parent

Dear anon; It has been my experience that public schools listed highly (9 or greater out of 10) in the index are limited in the ability to assist a child with learning differences.

My son was having troubles in Kindergarten at such a school. Their advice to me was personal, i.e. I had not properly parented him. I discovered that he was dealing with ADHD and had the beginning of language based learning issue. By second grade he was really struggling. My son had tutoring at the school for reading in the second grade. I had put him in Kumon for kindergarten and first grade.

In third grade, the school testing indicated that he did not have a reading issue, testing at 75% relative to his school age. However, the same test given by a Neuropsychologist three months later showed a reading ability at the 9%. (The test given at the school could not have been properly done. They are not trained to listen for substitutions, incomplete words, and unclear pronunciation. These kids have figured out that they are not like the others and have learned to cover it up.) I realize now that the schools teach to the mean. My son is very gifted in problem solving but very poor in reading and organizational skills. The school was terribly inadequate at knowing his needs and they are ill-equipped to help.

It has been my great blessing to find a person, educational therapist, who has taught my son to read using multiple methods, not one fits all (Amy Draizen). I also highly recommend that you look into an appropriate tester (I hired Dr. Cynthia Peterson), outside the school, before third grade. The best possible combination of these two supports is at Raskob School in Oakland, CA. It can be attended just for the tests and tutoring, or after third grade they have a full day school.

The results for my son (now in fourth grade) are that within a year, he truly knows how to read. But most importantly, he really loves to read. He may not be at grade level but he reads on his own initiative and that delights me. Deb

Our 2nd grader was reading below grade level at 1st grade and is still a little behind now. After she was diagnosed as being dyslexic, we had her work with a tutor over the summer and she works once a week with a reading specialist at her school. She is a very bright child, good in math and verbal skills. My feeling is that she is developing her reading skills at a different rate than what ''they'' expect. Her teachers have told us that she will eventually catch up. We have her read to us and pick books that she enjoys and subjects that she is interested in. (I have learned to tolerate Scooby Doo)We also encourage her to read the world around her such as signs in stores, on the road, etc. Mother of 8 yr. old

I still remember this like it was yesterday. When I was in the first grade, my mom handed me some simple thing to read like ''I rode my bicycle.'' I couldn't sound out ''bicycle'' because the school was using whole language or word recognition. She took charge, and needless to say I attended USF on a 4 year academic scholarship and became a college instructor. School wasn't so great when I was a kid and it's far worse now. From teaching methods, to bullying, to disruptions in the clasroom, to lack of personal attention, kids can't read or do math and even the tests are dumbed down. One thing I see is that the reading material is too easy, boring or too visual. Kids like The Boxcar Children, Thorton Burgess's Buster Bear, Ol' Granny Fox, etc., or Children's Highlights. I home school my son who reads the Wall Street Journal. More at do-her-homework.html Roland T.

Hi, I was in the same boat as you, except my child has mild dyslexia, which made it difficult for her to sound out words and read the short words (no, was, etc). I took a workshop by Angela Norton Tyler called _Tutor Your Child to Reading Success_. She has a book out by the same name. You can find it on Amazon. Her book will help you assess your child in three areas: phonics, site words, and fluency and then has you play games with your child to teach the **specific** sounds and site words that your child does not know. These games include: word wheels, tic tac toe, hide and seek, and picture boxes. I went online and found even more games that my kids love, including mazes, go fish, change, and board games. Check out: - (best online games) - (best game ideas) - - (great puzzle maker)

MOST IMPORTANT: Go out with your child to a cafe 1-2x per week. Get her a donut or hot chocolate and do your tutoring games there. Don't tell her it's ''tutoring,'' tell her you want to play games with her.

In addition: have your child watch Electric Company (channel 9 at 5:00) and Read between the Lions. Shows are also available at the library or buy DVDs online.

Finally, keep up daily story time and visits to the library, but don't pressure the child to read. I did this with my first and inadvertently set her back. Tutored My Kids

I just wanted to add a further note about Angela Norton Tyler's book _Tutor Your Child to Reading Success_. Like you, I did not get any helpful advice from teachers. They all gave the same advice of: ''read to your child.'' When you've been doing that since the child was a baby, this advice is next to useless, especially if they also classify your child as being in the ''bottom 3'' or whatever. _Tutor Your Child to Reading Success_ was the first resource I had that taught me *exactly* what my child needed help with in terms of reading. For instance, instead of hearing, ''Your child is below grade level,'' you will find out that your child can correctly sound out short a, e, and i, but is having trouble with short o and u. Then you target learning those exact sounds with fun games. Same thing with site words (words that cannot be sounded out): you learn that your child can read school, where, and when, but needs to learn called, which, and friend. After I began this program late in first grade, my daughter jumped a reading level in 2-3 months.

Finally, you must continue to provide your child with rich life and learning experiences (trips to museums, the zoo, to the mountains, other places etc.) and limit TV -- as ultimately, an enriched life bolsters reading comprehension. I'm not 100% sure, but of the 10 factors that educators outline for fluent readers only 3 concern actual reading (phonics, site words, and fluency). The other factors involve rich life experiences -- which likely accounts for the achievement gap between rich and poor. Your child will be a reader! Best wishes. Tutored My Kids

Hello, A series of books that I had my first grader read are the Nora Gaydos, ''Now I'm Reading'' series. Get the pre-reader books as well as they have all the color and number words in them. Each ''book'' is really a set of 10 books & a parent guide. These books are short and targeted to teach the words and sounds that first graders are learning. As incentives, the books have stickers and coloring games. Strange, but having your child color in a section of a triangle does seem to motivate them. They get a sense of accomplishment when they've read the book 4 times and have colored in the whole shape. At the end of each book there are questions and other activities.

Nora Gaydos also has a new series, ''Read it, Write it, Draw it,'' which are wonderful in that your child interacts with the story 3 different ways - reading, writing, and drawing and adding stickers. Repeating a story over and over is *really* great for early readers as they learn through (exhaustive) repetition. We read several stories 3x each night for *many* nights.

Another good series for helping 1st grade readers is the Bob Books. These are fun, but our school already used them, so I went with the Nora Gaydos books, which I actually thought were funner.

A previous poster said some school books had ''too many pictures.'' Note that pictures provide clues to the story and actually aid reading, especially for beginning readers. So do not shy away from books with pictures or block the pictures!

Finally help your child, but don't panic or push her. (Yes, I know, easier said than done in this climate of over-testing and punishing schools that don't *test* well.) Your daughter *will* read! Love reading, hate the foolishness of NCLB

Dear Parent of the 1st grader with trouble reading. I just read all the responses and had to write. I have two kids with dyslexia, and I have dyslexia. Dyslexia is a general term for difficulty learning to read, and research shows that 20% of all people have it. Reliable research based information can be found here: (from Dr. Sally Shaywitz, Yale University). You can check out her list of *preschool* indicators of dyslexia. Quote from her website: ''Most people assume that part of being smart is being able to read well. About 100 years ago, though, doctors figured out that some people, even some very smart people who do really well at many other things, have trouble learning to read. This difficulty with reading is called dyslexia.'' Yes, we may start our kids reading too early, but most kids do fine and if your child has difficulty reading relative to her peers, she needs to be tested again by a quailified professional like a neuropsyhcologist, or at a place like LindaMood Bell in Berkeley. I followed the advice of all those teachers who said he may grow out of it, after all, my son is very very smart they all said. He repeated kindergarten and by second grade, he felt so bad about himself because he could not read as well as his peer that I had to move him to a different school. I had waited too long. Over the next two years, we got reliable testing (I do NOT trust the public schools to do good testing) LindaMood Bell, and an educational therapist. My son at 12 now reads better than me (seriously!). When my second son started showing the same signs, I had him tested and got help way earlier, and he did not need to go through the self esteem crash. Heres the bottom line: Educate yourself on research based information about dsylexia. If you daughter is one of the bottom 3 readers of the class (and if she is a poor speller)- she probably has dyslexia, or at least needs more help. I suggest getting her not just a tutor, but an Ed therapist or LindaMoodBell- someone with research based knowledge and techniques. The good news is that she will be totally fine! I have dsylexia and am a poor reader. I also have a PhD in molecular Biology. Don't let the teachers be the final word- find out for yourself. You can contact me if you want! Lisa

I missed your original posting so am not sure if you said which school district you are in. My son has dyslexia, and (believe it or not) has received great services through Oakland Unified School district. The school district has a Lindamood Bell reading clinic which provides very intensive services for kids who qualify. It might be helpful to start advocating for a special ed assessment if you haven't already. Good Luck!

Last summer we enrolled our child in CA State University East Bay's summer reading program which has classes to prepare children for the grade they will enter in the fall. The classes, which cost $299, consist of a 3 hour course taught 1 day a week (including Saturday options) for 5 weeks. The parent and child attend the class together. The goals are to develop reading skills, foster a love of reading, and teach parents how to help their kids.

My son and I attended the class for children entering 1st grade. We took the class in the beginning of the summer and used its techniques throughout the summer. The course served us well for he'd made a huge leap by the time 1st grade started. It gave us a structure for reading together that bolstered his confidence and enabled me to assist him without frustration and power struggles. It taught us techniques that enabled him to take a break from reading without putting down the book. It also taught me to judge which type of childrens book is a good reader. There are lots of mediocre beginner books that don't meet this criteria, and there are many great books that are best for parents to read to their child. Berkeley parent

I know of a learning specialist who can help with reading issues. She was the director at Lindamood Bell for 10 years and is now an OUSD teacher. She sees some private clients over the summer. Her name is Angela Parker. You can reach her at 510 530 9571. She connects really well with my children, and they enjoy time with her. glad my kids are learning


7 year old not a confident reader

Sept 2009


While reading to my son at bedtime last night I asked him to read a few sentences and he said, ''No, I'm a sucky reader.'' This broke my heart. When I probed if someone had told him he was he said no, immediately wanted to drop it, and have me continue on. It is clear he is struggling with his confidence in reading. His 2nd grade teacher has told us he is at grade level which is great, but his confidence is lacking. Are there any tips and/or advice as to how to build my son's confidence with his reading abilities? He can read, but is reluctant to do so. Any help is appreciated! Thank you!

The same thing was happening with my son last year. He was at (barely) grade level, but didn't feel confident. He WAS struggling more than other kids in his class. And he knew it. And I felt like his losing confidence was a big warning sign and was affecting his love of learning. Also the other kids in higher reading groups could be mean. And his public school does not provide help for kids at grade level (only kids below) and then its non-credentialed volunteers. We hired a fantastic credentialed reading specialist to read with him and help him once a week. She was able assess him and identify very specifically what he was struggling with and how to help him. (many kids need to learn to speed up their reading, mine needed to slow down!). She was able to give him the attention and help that the school (and we, his parents) could not. She also worked with him over the summer, which was great for him to start school this year feeling strong. It was the best money we ever spent. He is now much more confident in his reading. I don't have a specific recommendation for you b/c our teacher is not taking new clients, but there are a lot of recommendations on BPN. Be proactive about this! anon

I just had this happen with my daughter. She really lost a lot of fluency over the summer, appearing to read chapter books on her own, but I think the books were too hard and she lost confidence. We started re-reading much easier books, below her grade level, with great pictures and just a few words on each page. She reads one side of the page and I read the other. In just about two weeks her confidence and fluency has improved a lot, and she likes to read again, but still just the easy books. So the next challenge will be slowly getting back to grade level books, but some of that will happen at school. -- reading mom

When I was taking care of a boy who had similar confidence problems in math, I started to ''help'' him with his homework. I made several mistakes, which he quickly corrected. It did become clear to him after a little while that I was doing it on purpose, but we laughed about it and I was able to make the point to him, ''see, you do know how to do this stuff.'' kind of a trick, but worked for me


Handheld or online games that help 2nd grader read

April 2009


We read quite a bit with our child, but are looking for some other ways to help him get reading in a way that he thinks of as fun. Does anyone out there have any experience with videos, online games, or handheld game devices (leapster or digi learner) that actually would help a 2nd grade boy improve reading or math skills? Is there any computer program or game or toy that has really helped your child read/learn phonics/spell and that they actually enjoyed doing? Anything you could suggest to combine playing with actually learning for a 2nd grade boy? If you bought your child any of the leap frog handheld devices, did your child like them and actually use them? Or did they just play them once and then never touch them again. If they liked them, what ''games'' did they like? I don't want to spend money on these things if they are not useful. Any advice is appreciated. anon

I don't know how much success you'll have with getting a kid to read while you're not there, if that's the point of the handheld games. For a second-grader it definitely helps for you to be involved. My son was a reluctant reader but a keen movie watcher, so we rented videotapes with subtitles and gave him the controller so he could pause as often as he needed to read what they were saying. Many DVDs and computer games now have the option of adding subtitles and changing the language so you'll have lots more choice than we did. Again, you have to be there to make sure he doesn't change it back when you're not looking. Other (very cheap) suggestions: ransack the library for other sorts of books he likes - it turned out my son liked recipes and home science experiments better than stories. Put him in charge of knowing what to do next in the kitchen - by reading. Make it fun - play clapping games and try to do basic math facts while you catch the ball, jump into hoops etc. fiona

My son has the leapster and the tag system. I'm not against the games but as for helping him learn to read, I'm not so sure. I would never spend money on these thinking they were anything more than games. If he is having trouble reading, look into educational therapy or some other type of program but relying on ''educational games'' alone will not help. I would, however, recommend the Bob series of books. They are these books that start out very simple rhymes like ''Mat sat.'' My son is really progressing with those. And they are much cheaper than games. Frankly, sesame street and the electric company are probably better than video games. One thing, my son does like to play the game in Leapster that comes with the device, Rabbit River and that one is probably the closest to helping him read than anything else. But, not worth paying all that money for it when there are other options. One thing I will say is do not get the Tag system. It does not teach them to read at all. anon


Second Grader making little progress reading

March 2007


Our seven year old is finishing second grade and has made very little progress learning to read this year. She is still decoding three letter words. She says that she ''hates'' reading, and is starting to dislike school. She was assessed by the school district (speech/language assessment), and they found she had very high verbal skills (98%), but very low Rapid Automatic Naming skills (kindergarten level). The school is respectful towards her, but they do not seem to know how to help her. She scored ''too high'' for special services.

My questions are: Do we have her assessed again (and if so, for what)? Do we do a neuropsych exam? With whom? Where? Is there funding for this? What kind of tutoring do we seek for her, and where? The school says that she needs a ''reading specialist,'' and not a ''tutor.'' We cannot afford this. Any and all advice/comments/direction welcome! WCCUSD Mom

I could have written your post earlier this year. What you want is an educational therapist, or otherwise known as reading specialist. Yes, you will have to pay for this out of your pocket. No my family couldn't afford it either, but we sucked it up, lived on the extreme cheap to pay for it and it has been worth every penny. My daughter has made such extreme progress, and we could actually probably stop now, but I want to make sure it sticks and she doesn't regress. She was reading 17 words per minute in October, and last timed she was at 70words per minute last month by her teacher. She still slowly decodes long words, but I have noticed a difference even this week in the long words comming easier to her. She is so much more confident about reading and school now. Of course I don't know what your daughters learning issues are, but chances are if you catch it at this point it is going to be easier than down the line with all the emotional issues that can come with it. The other advice I have is (I've heard anyway) that if you hire a professional advocate for your IEP they will help you to ''persuade'' the district to pay for your child's remediation. (I assume that they know the state laws and hold the school accountable to them-but that is just a guess.) I don't know if they already gave you an assessment if they will give you another so soon, or what a professional advocate would cost.

I can't stress enough how much this has made a difference in my daughters reading and general happiness now. It seems like it is very stressful for them. Make sure you let your daughter know she is smart,

Our Ed Therapist comes to our house. Others work from their own office space. (Educational Therapist sounds like a shrink, but they are really reading/writing/ math specialists.) Best of luck to you. I hope this helps.

I have two friends with children (both boys) who have the same reading problem. One is a highly intelligent child, the other is just average, but both had the problem solved the same way, by the same group.

It may be a ''tracking'' problem. Both families used UC Berkeley School of Optometry. The solution was not cheap, about $1,000 and four to six weeks of once per week appointments with homework each night. It worked!!! Tracking has something to do with the way your eyes follow the words across the page without losing your place. And, just like the average person can figure out a word, even if spelled wrong by the context tracking assists with ''moving through'' the words.

The average boy moved 1 1/2 years in one school year in his reading fluency and speed. The next year did another 1 1/2 year advancement and is now completely at grade level before the end of the year.

The highly verbal boy was able to catch up 2 grade levels this year with his reading.

The advantage to both boys was a renewed interest in school and learning, less clowning around and more confidence.

Good luck to you and your daughter. Kate


Second grader's reading ability

Jan 2007


Hi. I suspect that my second grade son has a learning problem related only to reading, spelling and writing. He is quite able to master math and abstract topics, however he has trouble reading more than one or two sentences at a time because it is so arduous for him and he gets frustrated and gives up. He says he's stupid because he can't spell and write like the other kids. He does fine on his spelling tests because we practice the words for the test a lot, however if he has to spell them in a sentence, it's like he's never seen the word before if the word does not happen to be spelled phonetically. His teacher and principle believe it's just a matter of time and practice until reading and spelling will click for him, but I am skeptical since reading requires specific decoding and visual memory skills, and this is his only area of defecit. Have looked in the archives for testing options, but didn't really find anything. We have decided to forgo the BUSD testing he would be eligible for if we requested it. Any thoughts or experience with any of this? Concerned

I'd really, really encourage you to contact Bill Baldyga. He's an educational therapist with a pragmatic, effective approach who is very conscious of the challenges to a child's self-esteem when these problems crop up. He's helped my daughter tremendously. His website is, and his phone is 415.216.8493. He's newly relocated to the East Bay. Good luck! Anononymous

Hi My son was a very late reader. He was as frustrated as you describe. He was fine in any other area but just could not get the reading part down. All of a sudden, at the end of 3rd grade, it clicked and boy did he advance quickly. In 4th grade he was reading at 6th/7th grade level. His reading is now very advanced so in the end, his brain just needed to catch up. I myself did not start reading until I was 9 (I grew up in Europe where it was not a big deal). It sounds like the teachers are not worried, so I would not worry either if I was you. JSE

He may have a problem with eye-tracking. The brain can be re- trained to process information that is taken in through the eyes moving around a page (or along a line). My son was tested at UC Berkeley's Binocular Vision Clinic in Minor Hall (near the new Business School). They have graduate students doing the testing supervised by a brilliant doctor (Dr. Hoenig). The evaluation was a few hundred dollars, and then we bought software (computer ''games'') and a binder of exercises. Several months doing these not as often or as long as they suggested, and my son's eye-tracking was much improved. 510-642-2020 Eye-tracking mom

Don't forgo the BUSD evaluation. No matter what an outside evaluator says, they are going to have to do testing before your son gets any services and the process takes a long time so put the request in writing, keep a copy for yourself and get the ball rolling in that area. In the meantime you can have your son tested independently at a place like Raskob Institute or Anne Martin center. If your son is feeling stupid and you think there is a problem why wait? The school will always prefer NOT to do anything. There is no harm in doing testing and finding out that everything is OK. The benefts of pinpointing a problem earlier rather than later are numerous--including your son's self-esteem. best wishes

I'm a second grade teacher and each year one or 2 students who are brilliant begin the year with reading difficulties. Often, it turns out to be developmental, and by the middle or end of the year everyything starts to pop and they figure it out. It's really hard to see them in the interim struggling. Try easy readers like Dr. Seuss and read and reread them. As far as spelling goes, your son's problem is the angst of second grade teachers-many students memorize the spelling words for tests, but consistently fail to write the words correctly when they write. I'm firmly convinced this is also developmental. For the moment, I'd probably hang in there. See what happens if you and your son keep reading familiar texts. Good luck... Reading Soon

You definitely want to look into getting testing (Ann Martin Center in Oakland) for your son as well as hiring a tutor. Raskob Day School in Oakland offers after school tutoring. You can also go to the Association of Educational Therapists ( to find an educational therapist closer to where you live. Taking a proactive approach will not only help your son in improving his skills, but also his self-esteem. The longer you wait for tutoring, the longer it takes to remediate the learning issue. Also check out Mel Levine's website and anon


2nd grade daughter needs help learning to read

Nov 2006


I'm looking for someone to help my child to learn to read. My daughter is in 2nd grade and her reading is not up to grade level and she is falling behind in class. Her teacher is already talking about repeating 2nd grade, and I don't want to resort to that. Her teacher doesn't have many ideas about ways to help her beyond what she is doing in the classroom. She also keeps telling me to read to her, but I have always read to her a great deal and continue to do so. I'm not exactly sure what her learning issues are, as she can almost sound out the words. I'm worried about her self esteem. I had similar issues in the early elementry school, and it took a long time before felt confident about my abilities. I really don't want my child to go through the same thing as I did. Does anyone know who does this kind of thing? I'm pretty sure I'm looking for more than a tutor, but someone more experienced in different kind of learners or possible learning disabilities. Thanks Looking for help

If your child is having difficulty reading in school and your teacher has addressed this issue with you than you need more help if the only advice you are getting is to read more. You should explore if there are other reasons behind the slow reading? Is your child not intersted, is she struggling in any other academic subjects, is she having a difficult time decoding words, etc. Ask your school district to assess her for a possible learning disability. Put it in writing as they have 15 days to respond to your request. Some kids will often be placed in a reading lab or get resource support at school and even qualify for summer school. I know that it is hard but in the long run it is worth it. Try to access services through the district, especially if they identify that it is an issue. Good luck anonymous

Your post really struck a chord with me; I wish I had not waited so long to get help outside of the school system. It took me a long time to realize that the school either doesn't know how to help my son, or they don't want to admit he has a learning disability because then they are legally bound to pay to help him. My 10 year old son also has had problems in school, largely surrounding reading, which seemed to evolve into social/behavioral problems. I'm feeling much more hopeful these days, as we have found a great educational therapist who has us moving in the right direction, and my son has only been seeing him for a few months now. I can't express how relieved I am about the progress my son has made. His name is Bill Baldyga and his contact information is 415-216-8493 website is He relocated from Santa Cruz recently, and a friend referred him to me. I'd sign my name, but we're wanting to be low key about his struggles in our small school community, so sign me. .a happier mom with a happier son

The Association for Educational Therapists lists members who are highly qualified to help your child learn to read. The website is and can explain what ET's know and do. Though I don't work in this particular area, many of my colleagues here in Berkeley and Oakland are very experienced with remediation of dyslexia. Linda


4th Grade



9 year old twin with reading problem

Jan 2011


Our 9 year old fraternal twin girls are very different in many ways. One of them reads at an advanced level, while the other one is struggling with reading and falling behind. They are in 4th grade, but she is still having trouble recognizing simple words that she has seen and heard many times. Three years ago she went through the public school's individual evaluation process. They determined her reading skills were developing slowly, but that she did not need special attention. Now we believe she DOES need some help, and we are wondering where to turn. We expect to have to find help on our own, and to pay for it. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

Write a letter asking for your child to be re-tested. Even if they don't qualify for help from the district, you'll be able to use the testing with a tutor and save some time. Call DREDF 644-2555 and ask to talk to a parent advocate to get help on how to do this. anon

lots of kids have learning disabilities diagnosed by school districts in 4th grade (cause that's when reading demands get so much tougher). so even though you got nowhere with school district before, try them again before you go it alone. best wishes

Get your daughter to do an eye exam, just to rule out any vision issues. Our son is 8.5 and has never taken to reading. He loves a good story, loves to hear me read to him, is making interesting comments and predictions on the text, participates in class, etc. but he won't ever elect to read on his own. His 3rd grade teacher noticed his eyes dart back and forth on the page, so she suspected an underlying eye problem. She sent us to Dr. Gina Day at Larkspur Landing Optometry, who specializes in child-related eye problems and is extremely patient with kids. Dr. Day diagnosed far-sightedness, meaning his eyes strain when he does anything at close range (reading, homework, etc.) So he naturally looks away to relax his eyes, which makes him lose his place on the page, his focus, etc. He is now wearing glasses, and the prescription isn't strong (+0.5) but it helps the eyes relax while he's doing close range work.

Dr. Day also found out that he reads much slower than what you'd expect at his age, probably because he never read a lot in the past. That basically means he isn't reading quickly enough for the story to grab his attention. Dr. Day set him up with a piece of software that helps train his eyes and brain to process data quicker. We can see some progress already but no giant breakthrough yet (only been doing this for 2 weeks now!)

Bottom line: check her eyes. A regular ''well child'' visit won't uncover visual problems: my son's distance vision is 20/20, and that's all they check at his regular Kaiser visits. Glad to know there's a reason

It is time for the school to retest her. Usually schools are willing to retest after two years. You might inquire whether she could have processing problems which would require testing by the school's speech pathologist as well as the school's resource teacher, and school psychologist. Don't delay. a teacher

First of all, you are a good mom for figuring this out. Second, run run run to Lindamood Bell. It is expensive, intensive and I will make no apology for that- it WORKS. And it works in a relatively short amount of time, considering. My daughter wasn't reading a lick by the end of first grade when we looked into their program. I will forever be grateful to LB for showing my daughter the way to read. She worked really hard, four hours a day, and the minute words began to make sense the smile on her face was from ear to ear. She was proud. You must be fully committed however; children who are pulled out early tend to have a harder time keeping their reading skills concrete. anon


4th Grader with phonemic weakness

Feb 2003


Hi, My forth grade daughter has been diagnosed with a mild ''phonemic weakness'' ( I understand this to be a dyslexia type problem). She reads by memorizing words, but struggles with longer words and guesses, rather than sounds them out.

I have been told that a tudor who uses the Wilson method is best for this problem, but have been unable to find any in our area. Any ideas? She'll do best with someone who is VERY relational, and can make this fun.

Also, I have heard that the Lindamood-Bell program might be helpful. But since my daughter is a very reluctant participant in anything having to do with reading, I am concerned about the time intensiveness of a program like this.

I'd love any suggestions. We are a family of avid readers, and she feels sensitive about being different from us about this issue. a concerned mom

You didn't state what kind of school your daughter is in. If she is in public school and they have found that she has a phonemic awareness deficit, then they should provide appropriate intervention for that. If she is in private school, then yes, you need to find a tutor. Phonemic awareness is the ability to discriminate the individual sounds in words. Lack of phonemic awareness affects the ability to sound words out and blend sounds together- and so this affects reading and spelling. The best time to address phonemic awareness is pre-K, K and grade 1, before reading problems develop. Since your daughter is in 4th grade, I recommend that you move on this quickly and intensively. The good news is that with the proper intervention, phonemic awareness can be remediated. However, I imagine that along with phonemic awareness work your daughter will need some intensive phonics work to solidify the sound/symbol relationship.

There are several good programs that address p.a. I am not familiar with Wilson, but Lindamood-Bell is definitely one of the best. (see the reviews of Lindamood-Bell for the rest of this recommendation.) Lauren

Also see: Spelling & Phonics Tutors


4th Grader Poor Reader

November 1999


My 4th grader needs help in reading and I was hoping someone could recommend a reading tutor. The majority of his problem lies in sounding out words and trying words that he has never read before. Because of this, his reading tends to be slow and jumpy. We have him reading several hours a week at home and work with him on a consistent basis but I think someone outside the family could add to our effort.

When my son was in the third grade, he was diagnosed with learning disabilites, primarily in visual perception and visual processing (affected his reading and writing) and kinesthetics (affected his writing only). His reading was much like the way you describe your son's reading. An early reader (sight words by the age of 3) he basically stopped reading in the third grade because it became too difficult as the books became harder. The poor little guy was struggling and it started to affect his self-esteem. After he was tested, we found out that he was reading at a first grade level, and were able to take appropriate action.

First, the learning specialist at Marin School (loved the specialist at Marin School in Albany, but not at Albany Middle School, and love the Specialist at Bret Harte Middle School in Oakland) made sure that he understood that kids learn differently and that he is not stupid, as he took to calling himself. Second, we developed an IEP that included a reading group. We made sure he didn't feel stigmatized by being associated with special ed. (By the way, he was pulled out of the classroom for handwriting)

Third, four other moms and I contacted several fraternities and had them tutor our kids as part of their community service. Win-win for all of us!

I'm not presuming that your son has an LD, but if you haven't had him tested, you might want to consider, because there are so many resources available to you and your family. By the way, my son is now in the seventh grade and his reading speed is at grade level and his comprehension is at college level. In fact, he just finished reading Origin of Species--his own choice!


12 year old's reading comprehension problems

Feb 2005


I have a 12 year old son in Middle school with lots of reading comprehension problems. In earlier grades he refused to read and always seeked help fromus with social studies and reading homework. Now, in 7th grade he often does not understand simple words and having lots of problems in literature, history and sometimes science reading. The more we help the more he doesn't learn. He attends a Montesoori school and the teachers think everything is fine because he is average. But we see some serious problems in high school if he doesn't pick up his comprehension. Can someone tell me what I can do to help. We have tried private tutors and Lind mood Bell. He does not have a learning disability. He just has some mental block about reading. Please help, worried mom

Have you had his vision checked? It's the first issue to assess. If he has to work hard to see or focus on the letters he will avoid reading and/or he will have less mental energy available for comprehension. The UC Binocular Vision clinic does a functional vision analysis - what happens to the eyes while they are trying to work together. A ''normal'' vision screening doesn't include this. You are right to be concerned about this now. Poor or reluctant readers' disadvantages grow over time, they don't get better. Linda

I am a school psychologist in a middle school where my primary role is to evaluate children for learning disabilities. From your description, it sounds like your son may have a mild language-based learning disability that manifests in these reading comprehension problems. Has he been evaluated to determine if he has any specific processing weaknesses (e.g., memory, attention, etc.)? If not, I strongly recommend a psycho-educational or neuropsychological evaluation, which will help identify specific areas of learning strengths and weaknesses and can guide interventions. Even though your son is in private school, you can request an free evaluation through your local public school district (this should be done in writing) or pay for a private evaluation with a licensed educational, clinical, or neuro- psychologist. Best of Luck, Alisa