Worried about your son’s reading? Let’s look at what you should and shouldn’t be worried about.

Some boys (and girls) experience genuine difficulties in learning to read.  However, most cases of parental anxiety in this area are altogether unwarranted.  Let’s outline some factors that may and may not be cause for concern.

Parents often worry about their child’s reading progression.  Sometimes there is a legitimate reason, more often there isn’t.  Two things make it difficult to determine:

Two things make it difficult to determine:

  1.  We know that children take different paths while learning to read.  They develop early reading skills at different rates and through different reading experiences.  So, we can’t say that all boys should take a set amount of months/years to acquire a particular reading skill.
  2. Many indicators of difficulty are actual things that virtually all children do at first. A good example is confusing ‘b’ and ‘d’, which is common amongst 4 to 7-year olds, yet most are not dyslexic.  However, persistently confusing ‘b’ and ‘d’, in combination with other factors, can be an indication of dyslexic-type symptoms. (Up to 10-15% of the population has some of the difficulties associated with dyslexia, but only 3 – 4% need specific interventions.)


Let’s look at some possible issues:

  • Sometimes slow reading progress is linked with a separate issue, such as hyperactivity, vision issues, speech difficulty or dyspraxia.  The Literacy Trust provides information, developmental milestones and advice to help parents with their child’s literacy development.

    Be an observer.  If your son (or daughter) frequently shows two or more of the following behaviours, in spite of good ‘formal’ education for one to two years, discuss it with the teacher and request further investigation.

    • Often confuses ‘b’/‘d’, ‘n’/‘u’, ‘m’/’w’, ‘p’/’q’
    • Tendency to write backwards or does mirror writing
    • Cannot learn or remember which letters make which sounds
    • Cannot learn or remember simple spellings
    • Cannot follow instructions with two or more parts
    • Is highly disorganised and /or clumsy (e.g. has difficulty with cutlery, despite help)
    • Show great difficulty with sequences (e.g. days of week, months, counting)
    • Has extremely poor pencil control
    • Cannot read simple nonsense words (e.g. pid, dop, yik)
    • Has a close relative (parent, sibling, grandparent) who finds/found reading/spelling especially difficult

    Remember that most children exhibit one or more of these worrisome behaviours from time to time.


Tips for Taking Action:

  • Trust your instinct – however, be mindful of comparing your child with a friend’s child. This can be misleading and unhelpful.
  • If you’re worried, raise concerns but DON’T let your son sense them.
  • Gather information – but from a variety of sources, not just a company wanting to sell their product.
  • If there is a problem, early intervention is important – but don’t worry, it’s never too late.
  • Keep your son’s confidence high – this is the best gift that you can give him.
  • All issues improve with patience and the right help. Some will actually disappear!
  • All children, whatever their reading level, have strengths and value – be sure to nurture them.

Resources for parents:

a)  Print out the Home Literacy Checklist and check it for ideas.

b) Print out the Dolch sight words by grade level 

c)  Print out the Fry sight word lists 

Try to understand that boys can be a little flighty when it comes to reading, but they need lots of encouragement and books that they want to gobble up!

Check out our blogs for more ideas and tips.

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