Very few of us can remember how we learnt to read - it just seems like we simply picked it up with little effort on our part! So, it can be doubly frustrating when your child really struggles to pick this up. It can be an isolating experience for you , with all the other parents comparing how well their child is reading, what level they are now on - we all know of the 5 year old reading Harry Potter right? You are not alone and this post explains why a dyslexic child struggles to pick up reading skills.
1. They are having trouble with how sounds and letters go together.
This is a key component of reading which children develop as they start to learn to read. It is important that they know the sounds which each individual letter of the alphabet makes; the next stage to this is learning the sounds which combinations of letters make such as 'ai' and 'oa'.
According to Dr Goswami, dyslexic children process sound slightly differently to non-dyslexic children, meaning that it takes them longer to pick up how sounds and letters go together. However, do be rest assured that your child will pick this up if a 'little and often' approach is used. A good example, is to help your child for 10 minutes each day.
Some dyslexic children can't distinguish the sounds in spoken words. Can your child identify when a word rhymes with another? Or do they know what the start/end sound of a word is.
This is also a key part to being able to read ( and spell). Rhyming is thought to be an important part of the reading process and many dyslexic children struggle to identify rhyming words or produce rhyming words. This can be quite easily taught in a fun way through reading rhyming books - I really like Dr Seuss.
Other children find it difficult to separate out the individual sounds in words - if this is the case for your child then you can begin by asking them to identify start sounds of words. When they can do this, move on to the end sounds of words and then ask for the middle sounds. Finally, ask your child for each individual sound of the word ( please note you are asking for sounds and not spellings)
2. They are having difficulty recognising shapes of letters
Your child may be finding it difficult to recognise the actual letters of the alphabet. In which case you will need to rectify this issue before they are going to become proficient readers. When I know children are struggling with recognising letters and putting sounds to those individual letters, then I do an exercise whereby they circle the letters and say the sounds or write the letters and say the sounds every time that I see them.
3. They can't recall words they have seen before.
This is a common issue for dyslexic readers - they find it difficult to automatically recall words that they have read before - have you noticed how your child doesn't always recognise the word ' the' , even though they have only just read it?
This is often down to not being able to retrieve the word from their memory, which is where learning visualisation techniques can really help, especially for these short words which don't hold a lot of meaning for a dyslexic child. I hold regular online workshops which show you how to teach visualisation skills to your dyslexic child.
4. They have a poor working memory so they need more repetitions to learn shapes of letters and how sounds match those letters.
Working memory is the way information is passed into our long term memory and is also the way that we retrieve information from there. Your dyslexic child will have some weakness in their working memory. To overcome this, they will need to repeat how sounds and letters go together and the shapes of letters more often than other children do. This is also part of the reason that they don't pick up reading easily from school, despite being taught phonics - it is just covered too quickly.
How much repetition you will have to do will depend on your child - some have a major weakness with working memory and others just have a slightly weaker one.
Good news - with plenty of repetition your dyslexic child will learn how to read.
If you help your child with learning how sounds and letters go together, check that they can identify and produce rhyming words as well as know how to split words up into sounds then you will be giving them the skills they need to read. Throw in lots of enjoyable reading practice and you are well on your way to having a child who can read and also enjoy reading.