What To Do if Your Child is Already Behind

A child who falls behind early is likely to permanently remain behind his peers unless intensive remedial education is provided. Work with your child’s teacher to identify age-appropriate materials and methods for your student. In some school districts, it’s possible to get a volunteer mentor or tutor to work with your child. Check with the school to see what’s available.

Donalyn Miller cites research by Richard Allington that found students in remedial programs read about 75 percent less than other students. Miller says this is opposite to what should happen. Preferring to call those who struggle with literacy “developing readers,” Miller says they must “spend substantial instructional time actually reading if they are to attain reading competence.” Reading and writing, like any other skill, must be practiced at length for students to reach proficiency.

Block off downtime for your child to spend reading. Provide a quiet reading space with comfortable seating and good lighting, and minimize digital distractions.

Ask your student to keep a journal—paper or digital—to encourage writing without the pressure of grades. Continue applying the education helps for the grade level your child is reading at until improvement occurs. Do not pressure your child, as stress will discourage reading. Do what you can to make reading and writing enjoyable so your child will be willing to do them more often.

A study by the National Early Literacy Panel found that “most young children develop few conventional literacy skills before starting school.” Therefore, if you help your children develop those skills, you will give them an educational advantage that will serve them well not only throughout their schooling, but into adulthood.

Websites for parents

The National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families has many resources for parents, including information about fostering infant language skills: www.zerotothree.org

The Early Learning Coalition of Orange County has multiple resources for parents, including information on Head Start and Voluntary Prekindergarten programs: elcoforangecounty.org

Download a guide to skills a child should learn to prepare for kindergarten from the Early Learning Coalition of Duval: bit.ly/DuvalVPK

Reading Rockets, a young children’s website by PBS affiliate WETA in Arlington, Va., compiled a large selection of literacy apps: www.readingrockets.org/teaching/reading101/literacyapps.

Another WETA site, AdLit, is focused on literacy in grades four through twelve, with resources for parents and teachers: adlit.org

Scholastic offers a series of parent guides for various ages of children: http://bit.ly/ParentGuideScholastic

The American Library Association has a collection of reviews and links to educational sites for children at Great Websites for Kids: gws.ala.org.

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Website Updated: June 2020

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