Site Map

Homeschool Fact:
"Homeschool" was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 1998.

Contact Info
If you need to contact us, please us the WebSupport Contact Form

Is There a Reading Problem?

At what point should a parent become concerned about reading and what clues do I look for to determine if there is a reading problem?

I am reluctant to give specific ages, because each child is different, and there is such a wide range, with children beginning to read at 3 or at 12. But I will say that 7 1/2 is the average age at which boys have the mental and verbal development to catch on easily to reading instruction. Girls, up to about one year earlier.

So if your child is not beginning to read at the average starting time, yet seems to have normal mental ability, you naturally wonder what to do. Should you wait and see if he is a late bloomer who will suddenly read at 12, or should you be searching for a possible problem?

I think it's best to start searching for a problem you can solve. Though your child may outgrow his problem and suddenly read at 12, you don't know that ahead of time. He may not.

About ten percent of children have neurological problems severe enough to interfere with reading. Sometimes you can detect this by their frowning and squinting, or very short attention to close work, or by continued reversals of letters or words. You also can check for left-right dominance. If the child is right handed, does he have a matching right dominance in eye, ear and foot? If there is any mixture of dominance it can cause a sort of scrambling of messages in the brain. Dominance problems are often solved by physical exercises designed for the purpose. Some books or convention speakers give information about this.

Eye problems are of several types, and only a small percentage of eye doctors help on these. I can't count the times a parent of a struggling reader has said to me, "We've had her eyes checked, and they're fine." The typical vision check-up does not uncover problems of focusing, or of letters that swim around or reverse, or other common reading problems. It's important to locate an eye doctor listed as a vision therapist. Then it's also important to determine whether the doctor will give you exercises and treatments to carry out at home, or whether he insists on the more expensive route of doing everything in his office.

Beyond the neurological problems, another ten percent of children have learning problems caused by dietary or environmental factors. Many doctors in alternative medicine today can test and help track down these.

There is no simple set of clues to list. But if your child is beyond average reading age and not catching on to reading instruction, then almost anything that persists, that strikes you as not quite normal, could be a clue to inquire about. Fortunately, today in most areas your network of homeschool contacts can lead you to further help, or on the other hand, can assure you when it's not time to worry yet.

A note from Debbie Strayer:
I have often referred homeschooling parents to a book entitled Helping Children Overcome Learning Difficulties by Jerome Rosner. It is published by Walker and Company, and is subtitled "A Step by Step Guide for Parents and Teachers." It is a wonderfully practical book that can help you evaluate your children yourself, and then help you form your own plan of attack. It is available from the public library. If your library doesn't have it, see if they can obtain it for you through an inter-library loan program.

Dr. Ruth Beechick is a former teacher, professor, and curriculum developer. Now retired, she writes for homeschoolers whom she sees as the greatest hope for the future of our society.

This article is reprinted with permission of the author, Dr. Ruth Beechick. Excerpted from Dr. Beechickâ??s Homeschool Answer Book, which contains answers on many topics.

Homeschool girl reading