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What can I do for a frustrated third grader?

Dear Let's Go Learn, My 8 yr. old daughter is beginning 3rd grade work this year. She continues to have difficulty with reading and reading comprehension. She frequently misreads words, guessing based on the first few letters rather than reading a complete word. She will occasionally read words backwards such as reading, "saw" as "was". Her abilities vary from day today. One day she will be reading solidly at grade level and the next day she will have trouble with basic phonics. Reading for her is a chore and she becomes easily frustrated when I ask her to re-read a word or sentence. Can you tell that I am a bit frustrated too? I would appreciate any suggestions that would help me to help her. Thank you.

Hello, Thanks for your email. Here are my thoughts about your daughter:

1) I feel terrible saying this but if your daughter is having these kinds of problems in 2nd grade, she will almost certainly have a harder time in 3rd grade. In the United States, 3rd grade is where a student is required to begin reading large quantities of material independently. I talk to droves of parents who tell me that their son or daughter was doing "OK" in 1st and 2nd grade but really went down hill in 3rd grade.
2) "She frequently misreads words, guessing based on the first few letters rather than reading a complete word." This is very common for kids who have weak phonemic awareness. I have seen kids who even sound out each of the letters then say something totally different when they say the word as a whole. They sound out: "/s/-/t/-/ar/-/t/" and then they state the whole word, "straight." It may seem to you that what she sees on the page is not what is coming out of her mouth. It may seem like she can't match the two things up. This is a very common symptom of phonemic awareness weakness.
3) "Her abilities vary from day today. One day she will be reading solidly at grade level and the next day she will have trouble with basic phonics." This too is common for phonemic awareness weakness. Another factor may be what some people call "Symbol Imagery." This is ability to hold on to letters and words in your mind. You might see that she will learn a word like "whose" and she might know it all day, but the next day it's like the word is brand new to her again.
4) "Reading for her is a chore and she becomes easily frustrated when I ask her to re-read a word or sentence." I am sure that this is very hard for her. I had one parent who described her daughter as having similar difficulties as your daughter. Her daughter was a little bit older and had to write a book report. Just reading the book for the report was very hard on both of them, writing the report was very difficult and took all weekend. On Sunday afternoon when they had finished the rough draft of the report, she said to her daughter, "And now for the easy part! Just copy this onto a clean sheet of paper." Her daughter began to scream and cry. I told that mother to imagine what it would be like if I gave her an entire page of Japanese text and asked her to copy it onto a clean sheet of paper, that is similar to what it is like for her daughter to copy a page of text.
5) "Can you tell that I am a bit frustrated too? I would appreciate any suggestions that would help me to help her." Well, it sounds like your daughter is weak in some of the processing abilities necessary for reading. I am sure this situation is very frustrating for you and your daughter. I have known master teachers who had been working with beginning readers for years who wanted to pull their hair out because of this kind of difficulty. Twenty years ago, most people thought that phonemic awareness could not be increased. Thankfully, that is not the case anymore. The first step is to get your daughter tested with a full reading assessment. Let's Go Learn, Inc. is offering an on-line reading assessment and accompanying instruction. If you decide you want to pursue assessment and would rather have an assessment in person, look for someone in your area who specializes in reading assessment and instruction. Make sure any assessment you choose measures all parts of reading; sounding-out words, memorizing words, spelling, reading in context and vocabulary.

I hope these things are helpful to you, please feel free to email me with more questions. Happy Reading!

Tags: struggling reader, frustrated reader, reading assessment, reading instruction

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