25 Feb 2013

Problems Learning to Read, Age 5-6

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All my kids were slow to read, despite being at outstanding primary schools using phonics, which has a great success rate. They're all avid readers now - after a lot of effort, help from the school and for my daughter, surgery. All children are different and the issues with yours may be different. For instance, your child may be struggling because they're dyslexic, which I don't deal with here.

This is what happened with us. We'd done all the usual stuff - practising the phonics booklets they brought home from school so they could become familiar with the sounds and letters. We'd done wordlists - also brought from school - so they could learn common words and practise blending. We read the books that school sent home. But progress was still slow.
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When my son was six, we got hold of fifty of the Biff, Chip and Kipper books to read at home: levels one to three and four to six. 80% of UK primary schools use these so they're perfect. They're not the same stories that are used in school, but have exactly the same characters. Normally buying all fifty would cost £250, but The Book People is selling them for just under thirty pounds for both sets together.

We read these every day through the school holidays, starting with the very easiest level. I think my kids were worried about slipping behind so they were very keen, and what pleased them especially was being able to read and re-read the easier levels on their own. They became super familiar with the stories (and the words that are in them). Then they loved going on to the higher level. Other series we tried were too difficult or not properly stepped. 

It turned out the issue with my daughter was that she had hearing loss. She 'didn't listen', didn't join in at school and kept saying 'what?' so I guess I should have noticed a bit earlier that she couldn't hear properly. When she had grommets fitted, with the intervention discussed above, her reading progressed at light speed - and so did her spelling.

When you want to help your child, take them back to something that's 'too easy', then bring them up in steps. Most books that are sold as being suitable for 'age 5 and up' are nowhere near suitable for most five year olds.