Johnny Key

Commissioner of Education

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How do I know if my child is a struggling reader?

Parent Resource Center

Knowing what reading on grade level looks like for your child could help indicate whether or not your child is a struggling reader. There are certain skills students should master at different grade levels. One way to find these skills would be to look at the grade level standards.  More information about what your child is doing at school and what they should know and be able to do is available in this section

 How do I know If my child Is a struggling reader?

Remember that children learn in different ways and at different rates.

Characteristics of Struggling Readers

Before reading, struggling readers
  • may resist reading tasks or approach them reluctantly  
  • may possess limited knowledge of the topic 
  • may inconsistently recall or use prior knowledge  
  • often read without considering how to approach the material 
  • set minimal or no reading goals
During reading, struggling readers
  • may exhibit a short attention span 
  • demonstrate a limited vocabulary 
  • do not consistently apply word attack skills
  • may read word-by-word 
  • lack fluency and tone in their reading
  • may read everything at the same rate, often very slowly 
  • do not know how to monitor their comprehension and often just “try to get through” the reading
  • do not realize or know what to do when they don’t understand 
  • do not create mental images as they read 
  • do not ask relevant questions 
  • have  a  limited number of strategies for helping them read the text  
  • may give up if the text is challenging or uninteresting 
After reading, struggling readers
  • may quickly forget or mix-up information  
  • may provide a one-word answer or give a verbatim response when asked questions  
  • often rely on the teacher for information 
  • express negative feelings about reading  

Language or Speech Problems

Children with delayed speech, who say very few words, who have trouble pronouncing words, or who have difficulty expressing feelings verbally may have trouble learning to read.

Hearing Impairment

Children who have difficulty hearing the individual sounds in words may have trouble understanding how those sounds connect with letters in written words.

Communicating With the Teacher

As a parent, you can learn a lot about your child's learning and watch for signs of possible problems. Here are some things to look for and discuss with his/her teacher:
  • Starting at age 3 or 4: Does your child remember nursery rhymes and can he/she play rhyming games?
  • At about age 4: Does your child have difficulty getting information from books that are read aloud to him/her?
  • Kindergartners: Is your child beginning to name and write the letters and numbers that he/she sees in signs, books, billboards, and other places?  Does your child have difficulty following multi-step directions or retelling a story?
  • At age 5: Can your child play and enjoy simple word games that use alliteration, in which two or more words start with the same sound? For example: "Name all the animals you can think of that start with 'w'."
  • At ages 5 and 6: Does your child act as if he/she understands that spoken words can be broken down into smaller parts (for example, noticing big in bigger)? Does he/she seem to understand that you can change a small part of a word and make it something very different (for example, by changing the first letter of a word like cat, you can make hat and bat and so on)?

 What does a strong reader look like?

What strong readers do: What struggling readers do:
Good readers use pictures, their knowledge of sounds and letters, letter blends and the shapes of words. They don't use all the clues in the surrounding print and by the time they get to the end of the sentence, all meaning is lost.
Experience of subject matter and the flow of language to help them make sense of the text that is laid before them. They haven't grasped the flow of language or looked for meaning in other areas of the text, such as pictures etc.
They self correct; if something doesn't make sense, they will try it again and go back and correct themselves. The reader gets caught up in a vicious circle, whereby because they are not good at it, they don’t do it often enough which then makes it even harder for them to catch up.
Reading is very much a holistic experience for them and they look for meaning in the words they read. Typically, poor readers don't look for what the text means. They look at it letter-by-letter, word-by-word.  
Good readers ask questions as they read, and they keep reading to find the answers.   
•  Good readers evaluate what they read by asking the following questions after they've finished reading: How do you feel about the story and why? Could this story really happen?
Poor readers often do not... 
• draw on background knowledge as they read;
• make predictions as they read; 
• visualize the events of a text as they read; 
   • recognize confusion as they read; 
• recognize a text's structure /organization as they read; 
• identify/recognize a purpose for reading; 
• monitor their strategy use according to the purpose for reading the text;
Good readers make predictions about what will happen next.
Good readers use pictures and other details to predict what might happen in a story, or to figure out things the author doesn't say directly.  
When predictions are based on the story, all are correct.  Predictions make it easier to understand what comes next and significantly add to the enjoyment of reading. It is rewarding to anticipate where the plot may lead, and then watch it unfold. Often an author will purposely lead the reader to a false expectation, so that the reader can enjoy the surprise of a different outcome. The reader will never have surprises if he/she has made no predictions. Getting new readers to trust their predictions, and to recover when their predictions are wrong, is a critical part of empowering students with the skill of understanding.
Good readers understand what they read. They reread, find answers to questions and change predictions as they get new information.  
Notice WHO writes the books they read Do NOT notice authors
Talk about books and stories with others Do NOT talk about books/stories
Consider what they already know about the topic Do NOT preview or think about what they know before reading
Establish a purpose for reading Do NOT know purpose for reading
Constantly check their comprehension to be sure they understand Do NOT self-check comprehension
Pay attention to the task of reading Do NOT know what they have read when they have "finished"
Good readers always come across new words and they use clues to figure out how to say the words and what they mean.
Have your children do the following: 
•  Read to the end of the sentence or paragraph to see if it makes sense. Sometimes the words around a new word can help.  
•  Sound out the letters or word parts. How does the word begin? How does the word end? What word parts do you know?  
•  Look for other clues. Look at pictures or think of other words that look like the new word.
Good readers can often see a pattern or the direction that the author is going. 
Infer the author’s attitude toward the subject and the audience
Often have a difficult time seeing patterns of behaviors or seeing other than what is blatantly obvious – implied thoughts are frustrating and bewildering.
Generally good readers make fewer miscues than less proficient readers, they may actually make as many or more miscues involving pronouns and simple function words – the so-called basic sight words.  This occurs because they are reading to construct meaning, rather than to identify words.  
A good reader can summarize a story by telling the main points. Have your child give you a summary of the story. Have him/her tell you the characters, the setting, the problem, the events and the ending of the story. If he/she is reading an informational story, he/she can tell you the main points and the details.  

How do I know if my child is dyslexic?

Your child will exhibit certain characteristics that will help others diagnose the student as a dyslexic reader. Dyslexic children are often bright, highly intelligent, and artistic. The inability to read doesn’t seem to equate with their high IQ or other abilities.  Each K-2 child in the state of Arkansas is screened for dyslexia.
If your child is above 2nd grade and exhibiting some of the characteristics of dyslexia, which are outlined in one of the questions below, you can request that the school screen your child for dyslexia. 
Arkansas passed a dyslexia law in 2015 that defines dyslexia and outlines the testing and intervention processes available to public school students.  

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities. See Arkansas Code Annotated § 6-41-602.
The ADE has created a video showing how you can find more information about dyslexia.

What is the dyslexia law?

The Arkansas State Legislature enacted Act 1294 of the 2013 regular session to ensure that children with dyslexia have their needs met by all Arkansas public school systems.  Act 1268 of 2015 amended parts of the original legislation. The legislation defines dyslexia, describes required screening and intervention, and lists required actions of the state, education cooperatives, and school districts.  

Arkansas Dyslexia Resource Guide

The purpose of the Arkansas Dyslexia Resource Guide is to provide school districts, public schools, and teachers with the guidance to meet Ark. Code Ann. § 6-41-601 et seq. This guide clarifies the Arkansas Department of Education Rules Governing How to Meet the Needs of Children with Dyslexia related to the assessment, identification, and services for dyslexic students. The latest version of the Resource Guide can be found in the related files section of the ADE Dyslexia webpage.

School Age Dyslexia Screener

The screener is a short questionnaire based on Colorado Learning Disabilities Questionnaire – Reading Subscale to determine if your child is at risk for dyslexia, and can be accessed at the following link:

Get Ready to Read

The National Center for Learning Disabilities provides a 20 question, web-based screening tool that can be used to provide information about a four-year old's pre-reading skills.  This tool can be found at the following link:

What can I do if I think my child is dyslexic?

Reading Rockets provides guidance.

What can I do if my child has been diagnosed with dyslexia?

Read "My Child Was Just Diagnosed with Dyslexia.  Now What?" to learn more about steps to take after a child has been diagnosed with dyslexia.
An article that identifies some of the early indicators for reading difficulty can be accessed at the following link: 

Where else can I find more information about struggling readers?

For more ways to help your struggling reader at home, read “Helping Struggling Readers.”
For more dyslexia warning signs, read “Dyslexia: What You’re Seeing.”
How do I know if my child is a struggling reader?
What is my child learning at school?
How can I help my child at home?


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