Pressure to Read – What To Do If Your Child is Behind in Reading

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Are you worried that your child is behind in reading?

You thought everything was fine and then the teacher tells you it’s not fine? And, that if you don’t do something . . . he will repeat the grade, he will require summer school, he will be in serious trouble . . . ?

This happened to Nichole in my Book Love launch group. We hung out on Google + last Friday night to chat about a recent conference with her son’s first grade teacher. Apparently her son would flunk if he didn’t get from level C to level I by the end of the year.

What I found, and what is very common, is that Nichole had NO reason to worry.

Behind in Reading

behind in reading

Trickle-Down Pressure to Read

Developmental experts and reading specialists know that age does not equal reading ability. You don’t suddenly become a reader (or ready to read) because you turned five or six. Yet, because of the federal pressures to perform on standardized tests, schools are pressuring the teachers who are pressuring the parents and students.

I honestly feel so much compassion for teachers. It’s a stressful time to be in education.

But, pressuring kids to read is:
1) not going to help them love reading,
2) developmentally inappropriate (in kindergarten especially) grade,
3) not going to work. Read what you should see in your child’s classroom for reading.

Do This: Don’t Worry

Nichole told me, “My son only knows 40 of 42 sight words!”

And as I listened, I thought, how awesome is that! He knows all but 2.

But, her son’s teacher felt this was a serious problem.

Really? 40 out of 42 is not a problem. 9 out of 42 might be concerning. Isn’t it interesting that perspective?

And, Nichole’s son has 9 months to get to level I so why is the teacher telling Nichole to worry? Pressure from administration, probably.

Do This: Make Reading Fun, Not Stressful

The reason I wrote Book Love is to give you a resource you could easily flip through and use for ideas right-this-second to make reading fun for your kids.

Consider these two reading scenarios — which would encourage Book Love?

#1. You set the timer, sit and read with your child while your other kids are playing. She painfully sounds out the words, and then repeats reading the book over and over as required by the school. Then you have to log in the book, title, and author.

#2. You ask your child to choose a books from his special book shelf of books. .Together you go to his favorite cozy reading spot, decorated with beanbags, pillows, lamps, and posters. Then, you take turns reading and chatting about the book. You might even have special reading snacks and drinks. You glance at the clock but aren’t too worried about the time because you know it will be around 10 – 30 minutes depending on how many books you read. You’d rather you read for joy than worry about the time.

Of course, scenario #2 is much more likely to encourage Book Love. That’s the goal.

Do This: Modify the Reading Homework

Consider why the school is requiring your child to do the reading activities and homework — for her to learn to read, right? Your goals are the same. However, you can modify the requests of the school to make it more fun and to better fit your child’s personality and still meet the reading goal. Explain to your teachers your homework modifications, and how you are going to be working toward the goal of reading comprehension improvement BUT, in your own way. Assure the teacher that you want the same thing as she or he does.

Most of the time, the teachers are very happy to know how involved you are and are wiling to be flexible.

P.S. Remember, Don’t Worry

I want you to know that you are doing a good job. Children develop on their own timeline, and if we can just allow them to grow at their own pace, they’ll usually be just fine. Really. But, if it seems that reading is just not clicking, and there is no growth, then you do need to investigate.

*Next week, watch for a post about the signs of a learning disability.

Click here for a sneak peak at Book Love!! Have you seen the over 30 endorsements for Book Love yet? I am so thrilled!!! It will be available October 23, 2012 on Amazon.

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  1. I need some advice. My son just started the 5th grade and the teacher tells me his Star assessment is between 2.8 and 3.9 and his Lexile level is 480-640. I looked them up online and they both show that he is well below grade level. What can I do to get him up to his correct level. This really concerns me.

  2. As a reading specialist, I agree that the pressures from the govt to meet AYP and read earlier are not conducive to a love of reading. I don’t think that there are teachers who think you should cause pain while reading. Repitition is a proven strategy for learning to read fluently. 🙂

  3. I couldn’t agree more that children should not feel pressured to read and that it should be fun and interesting! If introduced correctly and parents are involved in reading to and with their children, most children will develop a love for reading naturally!
    I love all the different perspectives from you amazing mothers. It just goes to show how each situation and child is different and it’s very hard if not impossible for public schools to give each child the proper care and attention he/she deserves. That’s why I homeschooled my kids for the last 14 years. I just put them in public school last year (I have 8 kids) for the first time for different reasons, but I do miss homeschooling for this very reason!

  4. my kids both read at a young age. my son was not even 5 flipping through flashcards like a 2nd grader. It had no benefit at all and made not one single difference in his education. (he’s 19 now) The only thing the teachers need to focus on and don’t is comprehension. My 14 yr old still has a problem with this and it’s been on her report card every year since she was 6, Every child in school has a different birthday, a different personality and a different way to learn. And “testing” and conformity means nothing to me . They are only worried about their test scores and honestly…who cares? what middle schooler or high schooler picks up a book and starts to read for “FUN”? NONE! they’re too busy! The same applies to sports and other things parent parade around thinking their kid is better. Unfortunately, they all grow up, they all go to college or work a job and the only thing that matters is their character.