Or rather, 7 possible reasons why your child can't read. These are just a few areas to consider if you have a child who struggles with reading. Surely there are many other reasons not listed here, but I thought I'd list a few to get the ball rolling. If you have more, I'd love to hear about them in the comments for more ideas!
1. Your child is just not ready. Children learn to read at different ages. It is true that the "light will come on" in your child when he or she is ready to begin reading. It's eagerly waited for by parents, but it can't be forced. Similar to walking or potty training, reading is achieved at different developmental ages for children. All children are unique and will go at their own pace. If you are trying to force your child to read when not ready, you are in danger of creating a hatred of reading. It would perhaps be better to "set the stage" so to speak for when they are actually ready. Read aloud to them often, let them see you read for enjoyment, create a language-rich environment, and find ways to make reading seem to be a grand stepping-stone of life. There are so many early childhood classic books to choose - from Goodnight Moon to The Very Hungry Caterpillar , to the many choices you can find around the corner at your local public or school library. Let them know that when they are ready, reading will be the start to many adventures in life!
2. He can't sit still long enough to read. Have a wiggly kid who is just not focused enough to sit and read out loud? Join the crowd with me 🙂 I have a child with ADHD who has a really hard time focusing and it takes a while to even get a single page read. "The" (wiggle, wiggle) "rat" (twirl, jump) "sat" (flings backward) "on" (hop, hop, hop) "the" (twist, wiggle) "mat." (twist, jump, flail). Or perhaps you just have an energetic kiddo who would rather be out playing soccer, right? No shame in that game! My advice: Let your child PLAY HARD outside after school for as much as is reasonable in your schedule before reading. Maybe try to read before or right after dinner, but not right before bed (unless you are reading TO him). And for us, I've noticed that it takes 5-10 minutes of hopping and wiggling between every word before he can really get that cadence of reading started. So I am ready for that "intro" time he needs to settle in to reading. I used to get so frustrated by that, but now I am better prepared, knowing he has to do his wiggling first. When we get through that, he may get some good reading in. Let them wiggle WHILE they read if they need to. I think it is fine to coax them to try to sit still to read, but it's not helpful to get angry with them for movement they cannot help. Driven to Distraction is a great resource book on ADHD if you need a start.
3. She has a reading disability or physical impairment. Many (and maybe most, if not all) children flip letters and read words backwards and go through all kinds of learning stages when developing at the youngest ages. Keep an eye out though, for persistent signs of a reading disability. If you are able to catch a disability at a young age, your child can really benefit from intervention right from the start. If not caught, your child can start to feel like she is "stupid" or "not fast enough". But there are awesome teaching strategies out there to conquer these disabilities and as your child's best advocate, you can help your child overcome right from the very beginning! Don't be afraid of "labeling" your child if she does have something like dyslexia or dysgraphia. Being able to SAY what the problem is can be the first big step towards finding a solution. For more information, Overcoming Dyslexia is a great resource. Another possibility could be issues your child's eyesight or other physical problems, so make sure to visit your pediatrician for anything you suspect. And please note: I am not a reading specialist of any kind - just a fellow Mom (and former educator)who has had to address several of these issues with my own child. If you suspect a reading disability, what harm can it do to perform a quick Google search for a reading specialist nearby and just have a chat on the phone to see what they think?
4. Your teaching is too PHONICS heavy. Okay, simmer down, phonics nazi! I love phonics too. And on top of that, I think all readers are going to need a strong foundation in phonics instruction in order to be a really strong reader (and speller!). However, children START out differently from each other. Some children really do need to memorize words or just hear and see the same old, same old book over and over and OVER again to begin to pick out the words you are reading on the page and begin to formulate them in their mind as WORDS to be said aloud. The decoding of phonics may be too much for this type learner in the very early stages. In this case, if you have an eager reader, it won't hurt them to pick up an old-time Dick and Jane reader, or better yet, try "How to Read" on for size. It's chock-filled with early high frequency words (many of them sight words to be memorized anyway). The words are repeated page after page and quickly incorporated into short sentences so your reader can feel a great JOY of reading a whole sentence very early on! Of course, always do come back after a time to phonics to solidify what your kiddo is learning and reading and to "dive deep" into the English language for greater proficiency.
5. Your teaching is too SIGHT WORD heavy. On the flip side of #4 above, some children's minds need the decoding! If you just had them try to memorize a word straight on, they'll no be able to remember it or retain it for long (Remember, all our awesome kiddos are different kinds of learners!). Maybe your child needs that early-on decoding skill to really make sense of a word or sentence. That's okay! That's great! There are so many amazing phonics programs out there (Hooked on Phonics, anyone?). And also, with the likes of Pinterest, you don't even really need to buy anything crazy expensive. Just start working with letter combinations and sounds to give your child those stepping-stones of phonics that he will need in order to start picking up the words.
6. He is afraid of failure. If this is true, and you suspect that your child has a fear of failure when it comes to reading, I'd encourage you to dig deep with him and find out if something happened or is happening at school or elsewhere to make him feel this way and then address it. Life is full of problems and kids bottle these up, but as parents we need to really TALK to our kids to find out what is on their hearts and minds. Is he worried other kids will laugh at him when he reads aloud in class? Be a source of support and talk about that with him. Discuss what you can do together as a team to help him prepare for the next time he might read aloud. Tackle that worse-case scenario. And I hate to bring this up, but parent - are you being an encourager or a slave-driver? Please don't brow-beat your child for not reading well or in the way you would like. It's not necessary to correct every. single. word. that comes out of his mouth when he is reading for you. Sure, make corrections. But don't make it so laborious that your child feels like a failure even with you in the privacy of home.
7. She says she HATES reading. If you have a child who is interested in bugs and beetles, maybe consider reading a book about - wait for it - bugs and beetles! Or WHATEVER their interests may be. Yes, you can branch out from there and help your child expand their horizons based on book choice, but also, let them explore their interests and their world through the printed word to their heart's desire. There is a story out there for every niche under the sun. I mean, there is a story about EVERYTHING out there! Just check Amazon or your local library and you'll find a book about anything you can dream up. At school, the teacher may require your child to read from their own "level" (I hate this, by the way, when done in a way that embarrasses a child or singles them out). But at home? No way, Jack! Let them read what they want (go ahead and throw in a book or two at their proper level, too, though). Another piece of advice I'd like to impart: Make sure you leave each night with a cliff-hanger. As you do read-alouds to your child, make sure there is something exciting to look forward to tomorrow. OH! And another hint - whatever you are reading, read it IN CHARACTER. My Dad used to give us a choice: "funny or regular"? Of course, we always wanted the funny voice. This is your opportunity to finally speak in that British accent that you love! Or to sound sinister and scary. Kids eat this stuff up - so easy and such awesome memories 😮 PS - Here is a great article I found for tackling so-called "reading haters."
What are some other reasons that you can think of that a child might not be a reader yet? There are many, I am sure, such as other medical, emotional or developmental problems that I haven't listed. One thing rings true for all though: Be patient with your child and know that WHEN they learn to read is not as important as IF they do eventually learn to read. I hope some of these gave you an idea as you seek to teach your child the greatest of all pastimes!