End of reception year and still can't read

(92 Posts)
BrightonMama Wed 03-Jul-13 10:47:41

Just wanted to know how common it was really, and how worried I should be. Am wondering if DS could be dyslexic, or would it be too early to tell?

He was a very late talker which seemed to impact on his ability to learn phonics - can't hear the sounds or make some of them.He entered reception still having additional needs with his speech and language (didn't start talking til about 3 and a half. He is much better now but some speech sounds are a bit unclear).

Things looked good mid way through the year as he seemed to make some progress. He was moved out of the special needs group for reading and started to bring home reading books.

But his progress seems to have stopped and is possibly moving backwards. Reading with him recently and you wouldn't have thought he'd ever seen a word/had a phonics lesson in his life.

I think my worry is that you can show him a word on one page, turn the page and show him the same word and he's forgotten it again. He does have a terrible memory - can't remember days of the week etc. He also struggles with writing, certain aspects of dressing etc

We read every night - not just boring books, things like the beano which he loves etc Have tried loads of things to get him reading too, like iPad apps, different reading schemes, Cat in the Hat etc

Thanks if you've read this far! Any words of advice or comfort gratefully received!

BrightonMama - My DS has working memory issues and is dyspraxic so he sounds a bit like your DS. As I have said he was definitely bottom of the class in Yr R despite apparently being bright. He never got to grips with phonics at all and probably can't sound out anything but the most simple words even now and he is 12. He has a reading age of 15+ so it hasn't held him back. Strangely his spelling matches his reading ability which I don't understand at all! My theory, and it is only a theory, is that his poor working memory is not a problem because he can use his very good semantic memory (his memory for facts and words) to remember the words, rather than work them out by sounding. I'm afraid it was plan old fashioned rote learning of key words and sight reading that worked for him. Once he had those he was away.

I think you are wise to see the teacher for ideas but also to chill out and just keep sharing books with your DS with no pressure for him to read. Things can improve very quickly when they finally click and you find a way of getting passed the working memory issues ime, whether that be via sight reading, phonics and a mixture of the two.

Just as a matter of interest, those of you with DC with working memory problems, how do your DC cope with maths or numeracy? It is probably too soon to say for those who are still in Yr R but DS has found it difficult to deal with the processes in maths as they can draw heavily on working memory. He is OK at it now but his mental maths is still weak.

mrz Fri 05-Jul-13 06:35:57

How did he rote learn with working memory issues?

You do understand that there are different types of memory?

ZolaBuddleia Fri 05-Jul-13 11:51:34

My 8 year old nephew really struggled with reading. He was a late-ish talker, had speech therapy and also had gromits.

What really helped him leap forward was a one-to-one reading scheme at the school. My sister works in education, lots of books at home and lots of effort made, but it just wasn't clicking until the one-to-one help.

This happened when he was about 6, and he is now one of the best in his class at reading, and really loves it.

He is quite a daydreamer who isn't great at following instructions, he tends to go off task, does that sound like your DS?

smee Fri 05-Jul-13 12:27:56

BigBoobiedB, my son's dyslexic and has poor working memory, but he's v.good at maths, including mental maths, thanks to a great teacher this who's helped him relax about recall, so she's encouraged strategies targeted to suit him.

Quick example, but instead of expecting him to have all the times tables with instant recall instead she's given him narrower targets, so first off she made him enjoy the fact that he knew his 11 times table - obviously that's easy but it still gave him confidence. Then she made sure he could instantly recall all the squares. Logic being that if he knows 6x6, 7x7, 8x8, etc he can then use them as touchstones to jolt his memory. So if the question's what's 8x7, he'd freeze, but the squares give him the touchstone, as he's been taught to go to what he definitely knows, so he knows instantly 7x7, so then that means he knows he just needs another 7 up from there. Just hearing 49 in his head might jolt the answer as the next 7 up, but if that fails he can just count up using his fingers if he needs to.

Not being expected to have instant recall of all the tables, just a few select ones took the stress away. Rather than feel a failure as the other kids could do it instantly, now he's interesting because his brain works differently. Celebrating that in class and acknowledging it has helped not just him but other kids who were struggling. Net result though is a relaxed kid who likes maths again.

Hope that makes sense!

RaisinBoys Fri 05-Jul-13 12:43:57

Very late summer born DS couldn't really read at end of Reception. He did love books though. Blending sounds did not click till the middle of Y1.

Scroll forward to Y5 and he is working way above national expectations.

They are children, not robots. Progress is not linear. It takes some children longer than others.

Speak to his teacher if you are worried - ask specific questions and see what they suggest for things that you can do in the holidays to help boost his confidence.

Thread title makes me cringe to be honest. Eye catching though I suppose.

TanglednotTamed Fri 05-Jul-13 12:46:54

Has he been screened for dyslexia? (I think that doesn't usually happen until a bit later). I ask because I believe that looking at a word and then a few seconds later not being able to remember it is a sign of one type of dyslexia (what used to be called word-blindness a long time ago).

daytoday Fri 05-Jul-13 13:36:49

I think forgetting words is very common at this age. Year 3 seems to when school really steps up a gear if child is still struggling. Many children are late bloomers. Personally, if you are still worried in year 2 get a private salt assessment, if school won do it.

zebedeee Fri 05-Jul-13 13:41:46

I'm interested in your thoughts on sight words MaizieD - that you need to be able to sound out and blend the words to be able to read them on sight. Kevin Whedall's MultiLit programme (seemingly taking Australia and New Zealand by storm) which is advertised as being based on the very latest research has a 200 sight word element to it.

From the MultiLit website: 'The basic premise behind teaching a bank of high frequency sight words is to enable low-progress readers, who have previously had very little exposure to text, or indeed success in reading, to access text quickly. Knowledge of the most frequently occurring words in text allows poor readers to access a great deal of the text they encounter without having to resort to decoding skills that they might not have yet mastered.'

maizieD Fri 05-Jul-13 15:02:57

And not everyone agrees with Kevin Wheldall!

I have a number of issues with 'sight words'. The may appear to be a result of my 'opinion' but, as my job for the past few years has been remediating 'struggling readers' at KS3, where it is imperative that they develop and consolidate the necessary skills as quickly as possible to make up for lost time, I have read very widely on the topic of learning to read, (going back to good quantitative research wherever possible) to try to find the most effective strategies.

It seems to me that the emphasis on the need to learn 'sight words' was a strategy developed by proponents of 'look and say' teaching. As children taught by this method can only 'learn' a few words at a time the rationale for teaching 'sight words' was more or less the same as that quoted above from the Multi-Lit programme. The strength of Multi Lit is that it also teaches systematic phonics whereas 'look and say' eschewed all phonics, dismissing it as useless because of the perceived 'irregularity' of English.

The concern I have with 'sight words' in programmes like this is the method of teaching them. If they are taught by 'look and say' then it takes an extraordinary amount of time and effort to teach children a tiny percentage of words from the English lexicon - look at 200 against 250,000plus. I posted some information on another thread about study carried out by Prof. Morag Stuart on teaching children by Look & Say. This is her writing about the study:

Jackie Masterson, Maureen Dixon and I carried out a training experiment (Stuart,Masterson & Dixon, 2000) to see how easy it was for five-year-old beginning readers to store new words in sight vocabulary from repeated shared reading of the same texts. It turned out to be much harder than we expected! We tried to teach the children 16 new words, which were printed in red to make them identifiable as the words to be learned.
There was one of the red words on each page. After the children had seen and read each red word 36 times, no child was able to read all 16 of them, and the average number of words read correctly was five. We were quite shocked by this, because we had made a database of all the words from all the books the children were reading in school, and so we knew how many different words each child had been exposed to in their first term reading at school. This ranged from 39 to 277 different words, with a mean of 126.
Hardly any of these words occurred frequently in any individual child’s pool of vocabulary: on average fewer than four words occurred more than 20 times – yet 36 repetitions had not been enough to guarantee that children would remember a word.
When we tested children’s ability to read words they’d experienced more than 20 times in their school reading, on average they could read only one word correctly.

I haven't read the original study but I think one could assume that the subjects were a perfectly 'normal' class of 5y olds. Despite Mnetters' frequent assertions that their dc has only to see a word once and they always remember it, this kind of study, dealing with normal, run of the mill, children, really gives a more realistic picture of the difficulty of 'word learning' with Look & Say'. The most startling contrast with phonics teaching (i.e sounding out and blending words) is that most of those same 'normal, run of the mill, children' would need only two or three repetitions of sounding out and blending a word in order for them to be avle to recognise it instantly (on sight) thereafter. It's a much more efficient process for most children. What is more, Look & Say is slow, word by word, learning whereas, once a child knows, even a few, letter/sound correspondences hundreds of words are instantly available to them with no need to 'learn' anything beyond the correspondences and how to sound out and blend.

I don't know how Multi Lit goes about teaching these 'sight words' but if they're doing it by Look & Say then, in my opinion, on the strength of research such as Prof. Stuart's, they are wasting valuable learning time for minimal benefit.

I also would contend that trying to teach some words as 'Look & Say' is potentially confusing, particularly to children who have greater difficulty in acquiring reading skills, as they do not know how to approach an unfamiliar word. Is it a 'sight word' that they are supposed to already 'know' or should they try sounding out and blending it?

Look & Say also produces inaccurate reading as children do not look very closely at the word; they tend to notice the first letter & word shape and say somthing which might fit. They are also very prone to leaving the endings off words and reversing common words such as 'was/saw', 'of/for' because they don't have a secure 'L to R, all through the word' reading strategy.

I have to say that none of this last paragraph is backed by research evidence and I have had these 'objections' dismissed by Prof. Wheldall because they have no research evidence, but they are behaviours I have observed in many 'mixed methods' taught children over the years; behaviours which you tend not to find in purely phonics taught children.

I could say much more, but I've written rather a lot already!

mrz Fri 05-Jul-13 17:31:30

Really! BigBoobiedBertha

Yes I do know there are different kinds of memory and I also know that semantic memory is part of the long term memory and relies on working memory

Thanks Smee that is really interesting. My DS was never good at mental maths. He doesn't have instant recall of the times tables even now, when he is in yr 8. It is a shame that nobody came up with a strategy that would have worked for him but he always bobbed along in class as average and so was never quite bad enough to give cause for real concern. He seems to have a good understanding of some quite complex maths now which you wouldn't expect him to get given his weakness at the basics but he is completely let down by not having the instant recall of the times tables, basic number bonds and all that. Everything has to be thought through and when you find working through steps hard because you have forgotten what happened in the first step by the time you get to the third it gets very confusing iyswim.

MaizieD - are you saying that you think phonics is the only way children learn to read then? I find it hard to believe that one size fits all but the research you quoted is interesting.

maizieD Fri 05-Jul-13 23:45:36

^ I find it hard to believe that one size fits all^

Oh dear,,,

allchildrenreading Sat 06-Jul-13 00:31:57

Thanks BrightonMama for looking at the Piperbooks site. One of my favourite quotes is 'Some children need an enormous amount of repetition and sometimes we as teachers cannot bear not to move on'. But when confusion sets in this can act as a huge block on confidence and learning The good thing about BRI is that the books go so slowly - lots of repetition, overlearning, attention to sound - and all instruction within stories which grab the attention of young ones in a way perhaps that worksheets don't do.
Lots of referrals from the Brighton area when living in Lewes - but had to move from the wonderful Downs!

BrightonMama Sat 06-Jul-13 12:46:44

Thanks all again for all your excellent advice and really helpful comments. I'm meeting with his teacher on Monday so will post again.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Sat 06-Jul-13 14:57:49

maizieD - did you mean to be so rude?

maizieD Sat 06-Jul-13 15:03:10

Rude about what?

MissBetseyTrotwood Sat 06-Jul-13 20:36:21

So BrightonMama my DS2 just finished R and can't really read either. He has various S&L issues as well as hearing impairment so it's not surprising that he's taking a little longer.

We've signed up to Reading Chest and he does Reading Eggs too, which he loves. He has made progress over the year and is advancing all the time; just not at the same rate as his peers. I'm really looking forward to summer and working with him on his reading and literacy more than I get the chance to at the moment (he's really, really tired when we get in from school and mornings are a bit frantic).

I am determined that he doesn't 'slump' over the summer. We'll make it fun too. grin

Do let us know how you got on. I'm all ears for suggestions/tips.

Chubfuddler Sat 06-Jul-13 20:53:33

My son was being taught in reception with a mush mash of look and say and phonics with HFW chucked in. By the end of reception he was a nervous wreck at the thought of opening a book. Not what an English graduate wants for her child.

We moved him to a school absolutely dedicated to teaching reading through phonics. One year later his reading level is 2c (which is apparently slightly ahead of expectations). He loves reading and does so for pleasure. Unfamiliar words no longer provoke a melt down because he has the tools to tackle them.

It was a drastic solution as he was very very happy at his old school. But reading is so essential a skill we really didn't feel we had any choice.

JulesJules Sat 06-Jul-13 21:16:07

Completely non-technical comment here.

I wouldn't worry. I was concerned that my DDs didn't learn to read as early as I had (before I started school), I couldn't see how they were going to learn at school with so much else going on.
But I think when they are ready, it just clicks and they make progress very quickly. (DH wasn't worried at all - he was 7 before he learnt to read!)

mrz Sun 07-Jul-13 08:46:23

Unfortunately for some children it never clicks ... the literacy chat topic
#literacychat Topic 2 8-15 - 8.30 How do we help students in KS4 who struggle to read and write? Join us :-)”

Wow, writing off a child in Yr R! I bet that is exactly what the OP needs to hear when trying to help her 5 yr old. Nice.

mrz Sun 07-Jul-13 09:54:07

Just the opposite BigBoobiedBertha ...Perhaps you would rather I said "do nothing because every child learns to read and write eventually" or "it will click because it did for my child" (obviously with my fingers crossed because it isn't true) or would you rather that children were helped early so they don't get to 15 unable to read and write effectively

SchnitzelVonKrumm Sun 07-Jul-13 10:25:45

He sounds exactly like my daughter, who couldn't read at all at the end of reception and struggled in year one despite extra help from the teachers. She knew she was struggling, too - she would get very upset in class and be disruptive, basically as an avoidance tactic, and would simply refuse to try and read at home, though she loved being read to.
Then at the beginning of year two it suddenly all clicked and she went up five reading bands in half a term (from 5 to 10), and at the end of year two she is a free reader. I think the whole episode has had a huge impact on her self confidence though and she is notably reluctant to move on academically because the next stage will be too hard, she is "stupid" etc sad
My DD was also a lateish talker, especially compared to her siblings, and was diagnosed in year one with glue ear that was affecting her hearing - she could hear vowel sounds but not consonants, so couldn't do phonics at all, really. We'd had concerns she couldn't hear properly for years (dismissed by GP and health visitors) so I suspect she'd had glue ear on and off from when she was tiny and that it affected her speech. But presumably if your son has a speech delay his hearing has been checked?
BTW she is also very creative and imaginative and curious about the world, but still struggles with writing, maths, not great at sequencing, forgetful etc so I think she may be mildly dyslexic.

What I would rather Mrz is that you actually offered some help and concrete advice rather than spewing negativity everywhere.

You should know that some children take longer to get reading and may need some extra help or a different approach but all you can do is offer up the fact that there are failed teenagers out there who have been badly let down by their teachers and can't read. Either that or you are suggesting that the OP's DS has some severe SEN when there is no suggestion of that.

Shame on you.

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