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How to help a child with a reading disability

1. Intervene early! Reading disabilities are considered the most common learning disability and are often not diagnosed or treated until it is too late for easy recovery. A child with a reading disability who is not identified until third grade or later is already years behind his classmates. This is a gap that must be closed if the child ever wants to catch up with peers. The best intervention is in kindergarten or recovery from first grade.

2. Teach phonetics. Through phonics, children learn to associate sounds and form connections with the word recognition and decoding skills necessary for reading. Research clearly shows that performance in phonemic awareness is an important predictor of long-term reading and spelling success. In fact, according to the International Reading Association, phonemic awareness skills in kindergarten and first grade appear to be the most important predictor of successful reading acquisition.

3. Teach the spelling. Spelling and reading are based on the same mental representations of a word. The correlation between spelling and reading comprehension is high because both depend on language proficiency. The more deeply and methodically a student knows a word, the more likely they are to recognize it, read it, spell it, write it, and use it appropriately in speech and writing.

4. Teach to write. Begin teaching preschool and kindergarten writing. Learning to write engages the brain in repetition and memory of how letters and sounds reflect meaning, addresses numerous reading and cognitive skills, and helps activate the reading and spelling areas of the brain.

5. Teach handwriting. Technology is a fun writing tool for kids, but it doesn’t engage the early reading brain in the same helpful way as learning to move the pencil across the page to use letters as sound images. Brain scan studies show that early lessons on letter formation help activate and coordinate reading connections in the brain.

6. Repeat, repeat, repeat. A child’s brain feeds on repetition so doing things like reading is automatic and fluid. Use repetition in early grades to read aloud, to rhyme, to match letters to sounds, to write letters of the alphabet, to spell, to pronounce words, for automatic reading of sight words, to give meaning in printed form. Kids love it. So make it fun!

7. Never give up on your child. Keep the expectations of your child and your future reader high. We owe it to our children to show our support, to provide all possible resources to help them, and to provide them with the necessary skills to learn and communicate throughout their education and lives.

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