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Tuesday's Tip: Reading Is Essential

If you want to survive in America, that is if you want to be able to keep a roof over your head, food on the table, and out of intractable poverty, you had better know how to read. Yet only about 1/3 of scholars are reading with proficiency by fourth grade with 1/3 at a basic level and the other third below basic. What all of that means is that the top third will have the skills to go to college. The middle third will be able to get a job that requires more physical labor than reading skills and the bottom third will probably spend most of their adult life unemployed. The numbers and outcomes are not written in stone and a given school or group of scholars will not necessarily reflect those percentages, but they are the national averages. We already know that reading disorders are the most commonly diagnosed learning disability in the United States with estimates of its prevalence ranging from 4% to 20%. Dr. Shaywitz of Yale University has found that 80% of scholars with learning disorders also have reading problems. Males are diagnosed up to five times more frequently than females, but males are screened more frequently for learning disabilities due to incidences of disruptive behavior so this number may not be totally accurate, and we are probably missing lots of females with reading problems.


So, what does all of this mean for the advocate or parent trying to create an IEP that has goals that support functional outcomes? It means that reading is a priority and getting it right is critical to the overall educational success of the scholar. There are multiple signs that point to a reading disability.

It is important to pay attention to see if a scholar is having difficulty learning how to:

o Follow directions with multiple steps o Organize their thoughts and what they want to say o Sequence a story when telling it o Connect letters to their sounds

o Rhyme words o Begin a task

Can the scholar

  • Use mathematical symbols and numbers consistently

  • Deal with emotional issues

  • "Get" jokes and sarcasm

  • Read aloud with minimal mistakes

  • Follow social rules of conversation

  • Read comprehension problems

These are issues that then send you to the following checklist that can give insight into what is the fundamental problem. What is most important is that the evaluations include the sub-skills or splinter skills so that skills that are foundational to the reading process are not missed and can be remediated if necessary. Too often not enough attention is paid to the foundational skills and then no one can seem to figure out why there is so little progress. It is a lot like building a house on sand. Good Luck!!


  • Anxiety with reading or writing

  • Decreased reading comprehension

  • Decreased reading fluency

  • Difficulty blending sounds

  • Difficulty comprehending complex grammatical structures

  • Difficulty distinguishing different sounds in words (auditory discrimination)

  • Difficulty hearing and manipulating sounds in words (phonemic awareness)

  • Difficulty learning a foreign language.

  • Difficulty learning rules for spelling–spell words the way they sound.

  • Difficulty learning the alphabet

  • Difficulty reading or spelling simple/ common small words like: the, of, said

  • Difficulty remembering words like: the, of, said, that, be

  • Difficulty rhyming or counting syllables in words (phonological awareness)

  • Difficulty sounding out longer words or nonsense words

  • Difficulty sounding out words not already in their listening vocabulary

  • Difficulty spelling in general

  • Difficulty spelling words the way they sound

  • Difficulty using or comprehending complex grammatical structures

  • Difficulty with activities of daily living

  • Difficulty with identifying, pronouncing, or recalling sounds.

  • Difficulty with letter sequence or the order of letter is reversed

  • Difficulty with letter sound correlation (names and shapes of letters)

  • Difficulty with memorizing number facts and operations

  • Difficulty with rhyming, blending sounds, learning the alphabet, linking letters with sounds

  • Difficulty with vocabulary knowledge and use

  • Difficulty with words in lists

  • Difficulty with words in lists, nonsense words

  • Difficulty with words not in their listening vocabulary

  • Does not like reading

  • Family history of reading difficulties

  • Good listening comprehension

  • Lack of persistence for longer assignments

  • Listening comprehension better than reading comprehension

  • Memory deficits

  • Mispronouncing common words

  • Non-fluent, slow, poor quality and quantity writers

  • Poor background knowledge due to lack of exposure

  • Poor comprehension during oral or silent reading

  • Poor fund of knowledge

  • Poor organization

  • Poor self-esteem

  • Poor speller

  • Poor study skills

  • Poor timed reading comprehension (listening comprehension higher)

  • Poor vocabulary knowledge and use

  • Poor writing quality and quantity

  • Pronouncing common words (floor mat vs. format)

  • Reading fatigue

  • Reduced reading experience

  • Reluctant readers

  • Slow growth in vocabulary

  • Slow reading – fluency (word by word)

  • Slow speed of processing information (visual or auditory)

  • Slow writing fluency

  • Slow, laborious oral reading

  • Slow, word-by-word readers

  • Time management skills

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