Research shows that approximately 20 percent of children in the United States have substantial difficulties learning to read. As these boys and girls grow up, the problematic effects of their reading difficulties are abundant and clear. During the early grades when they should be learning to read, they are embarrassed by their difficulties. This early humiliation leads to a decrease in self-esteem and motivation for school. A child can be easily frustrated and ashamed of poor reading skills once they notice that many of their classmates read fluently. Many of us can probably remember that the slow readers in our elementary school class were the "stupid" kids. During the later grades, when students are finished learning to read and should be reading to learn, their knowledge and interests in other academic areas are severely limited because they can not readily read information and texts about a given subject.
The consequences of reading failure go far beyond academic success or failure. A significant percent of children with reading disabilities drop out of school prior to high school graduation. Of those who do graduate, less than 2 percent attend college, despite the fact that many are above average in intelligence. It is recognized that half of the young adults with histories of criminal conduct? have reading difficulties, and similar rates of reading failure are seen among children with alcohol and drug abuse problems. Literacy failure is not only an educational problem, it is a public health and economic concern.
Most reading disabilities can be observed as a person attempts to read. The basic signs of disability are:
- Struggling to decode or "sounding out" unknown words.
- Repeated misidentification of known words.
- Hesitant reading characterized by frequent starts and stops and mispronunciations.
- Lack of reading comprehension because all effort is in sounding out and not in understanding the text.
Even individuals with mild difficulties in reading will tell you that they do not read much. This is because it takes too much effort and reading is not enjoyable for them. Unfortunately, there is no way to skip the decoding and word recognition stage of reading. A deficiency in these skills cannot be overcome by using context to figure out the meaning of the misread words.
HELPING CHILDREN WITH READING DISABILITIES
Many children that struggle to learn to read can learn to read well if the appropriate instruction is provided early enough. Early intervention is critical because it unless children are identified and provided with appropriate interventions by second or third grade, their chances of catching up in reading are reduced . It is also posssible to succeed with older students but the cost in both time and money is much higher.
A balanced instructional program composed of direct instruction in phonological awareness, phonics and contextual reading is necessary for gains in reading skills to be achieved. No matter how bright the child and how interesting the reading material, a child will not learn to read unless he or she understands how print is translated into sound. Likewise, no matter how much phonological awareness and phonics knowledge a youngster has, the child will not want to engage in reading and writing unless it is meaningful and taught in an interesting way.
?Many teachers are trained in a "one size fits all" reading? instruction method, which leads to reading failure for many students. Further, it often takes at least two years of failure in reading for? students to be identified in schools as having difficulties learning to read. This is too late.
WHAT CAN PARENTS DO
A lot! It's not enough to encourage your child to read, although that is also important. As a parent, no one cares about your child's well-being more than you do. Make sure that you are aware of how they are learning to read and take note if you see any signs of a struggle. Many parents don't wait for schools to teach their children to read and do so at home. That can be a bit intimidating for some and finding an effective reading program or phonics software can provide a structured reading course for you to follow. Even if it involves an investment, it can be worthwhile to ensure that your child is a good reader.