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How to Spot if Your Child is Struggling in English

How to Spot if Your Child is Struggling in English

All children master their reading and writing skills at different speeds. Just because your child isn’t able to write eloquent, flowing paragraphs by the end of primary school, it might not be cause for concern.

The important thing to do as a parent is to help differentiate between an underlying learning-related issue, and a child that is simply learning a little slower than their peers.

In this article, we will talk you through everything you need to know if you’re worried your child might be struggling in their English lessons.

What causes children to struggle with reading and writing?

The skills needed to become a proficient reader start to develop way before starting school. Studies have shown that regular bedtime reading, plus exposure to songs, poems and word games, feed their understanding of literary concepts and fuels an awareness of language patterns and sound structure.

These early experiences not only promote an interest in reading, but also help establish a solid foundation of written word awareness.

Another cause of a child’s delay in developing essential reading and writing skills is a learning difficulty such as dyslexia. The symptoms of dyslexia can vary widely between individuals, but common issues include mixing up letters in words, struggling to see spaces between words, and having trouble remembering what you’ve just read.

If you suspect your child might have dyslexia, it is important you speak to their school as soon as possible - they should have the resources to provide you with help and information.

If you’re not sure whether your child is actually struggling with their literacy skill, we’ve put together a simple list of seven signs to look out for, before seeking further help.

Signs your child is struggling:

Having trouble with with English they have already learnt

When trying to gauge how well your child is doing with their literacy skills, it’s often better to look at what they’ve already been taught, rather than what you think they should have learned.

For instance, if your child was given a list of words for a spelling test last week, test them again a week later to see how much of it they have retained. If they are struggling to retain things that they have already learned, this could be a sign that they need help with English.

Spells the same word differently

A telltale sign that a child is having trouble learning to spell is that a piece of work they have produced contains the same word spelled multiple ways. Of course this could be that they’re rushing and their work is a little sloppier than usual.

If you see a piece of work where they have spelled the same word multiple ways, simply ask them how to spell it! If they do know the correct way, it could be that you just need to reiterate the importance of taking care when writing.

If it’s clear they’re having trouble remembering the correct spelling of words, we have specialist grammar and punctuation tutors who may be able to help.

Not remembering sight words

When children learn to read, it is common for them to spell out words phonetically and split them up into syllables, such as el-e-ph-an-t.

Sight words are those such as “the”, “and”, “to”, and “has”, which children are supposed to memorise without the need of sounding them out. If your child hits these words when reading and struggles to say them aloud without decoding them, it could be a sign that they’re finding reading difficult.

Doesn’t remember what they read

Sometimes a child, or even an adult, can find reading so difficult that they struggle to comprehend what they have just read. Decoding each word can take so much focus and effort that they are unable to process what they are actually reading.

Luckily, this is easy to check! Spend some time reading with their child, and after they have read a page or two aloud, ask them a few questions about what has happened in the book. If they are able to process what they’re reading, they should be able to recall information about the story. If not, it might be time to seek help from an English tutor who specialises in primary-aged children.

Avoids reading

As an adult, reading is automatic. You do it hundreds of times a day without even thinking about it. If you ask your child to do something which involves reading, such as passing you the shaker labelled “salt”, rather than the pepper grinder, and they seem reluctant, you could have a problem on your hands.

Poor writing formation

Being unable to correctly form the lines and curves of letters isn’t just a sign of bad hand-eye coordination. It could be a sign of a deeper problem, whereby a child struggles to read and recognise words and therefore finds it hard to replicate them.

Make sure your child gets lots of handwriting practice outside of school, and if you’re really worried, you could always enlist the help of an English tutor.

Skips words when reading

Have you ever noticed your child skipping words whilst reading? If your child doesn’t stop and sound out difficult words, it could be a sign that they’re too scared or embarrassed to try.

It’s important in this situation to not let this slide. Bring them back to that word and help them sound it out instead of just giving them the answer. If they skip opportunities to put what they’re learning at school into practice, it can have a long-term effect on their reading fluency.

Here’s What You Can Do to Help

Speak to their teacher

Chances are that if you’ve noticed problems with reading and writing, your child’s teacher has too. It makes sense to speak to them and work together on this.

Their teacher may be able to give you tips and advice as to what you can do from home to help. They may be able to point you in the way of online resources to help or give you things to work on at home such as handwriting worksheets. Their teacher should always be your first port of call for any concerns.

Read more at home

After all, practice makes perfect! In a class of 30, a teacher doesn’t get to spend much 1:1 reading time with a child, so the more help you can be, the better! Have some reading sessions with your child and see if you can keep notes on what areas you think they’re struggling with - this might be a huge help for their teacher.

The more your child gets comfortable reading at home with you, the less stressed they will be when put on the spot to read aloud in class. This is definitely a problem that is best tackled as early as possible.

Get help from a tutor

It’s what they’re there for. A tutor with experience of working with children who struggle with reading can help devise a plan to work towards fluency. Working with a tutor is also shown to boost confidence as well as ability, so could be just what your child needs.

We have hundreds of English, reading and spelling tutors across the UK, offering lessons online or locally, face-to-face.

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Kirstan N

Kirstan N

12th Dec 2022