Your child is in kindergarten and is beginning to learn how to read and write. When you go to their school, you observe other students’ work and notice that some student work is neater with better spelling. Or when you are reading with them you notice they are having difficulty blending sounds together. “Oh no!” you think, “Should I be worried? Is my child’s academic future in jeopardy?”
Should you be worried? In short, no. Of course there are incidences of students with behavioral and/or cognitive disabilities which would impede success, but most schools (particularly public schools) have in-house support services. In the event that your child does need an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), most schools have services such as occupational therapy and speech to supplement classroom learning.
For the most part however, your child is probably fine.
Children of this age are constantly inundated with new information to process about the world (e.g. social cues, societal expectations, language, math, science, and friendships). By the time we are adults, we are essentially brainwashed with the concept of language and we don’t really stop to think about how bizarre it actually is.
Language is fascinating and complex; it took the human race in their respective cultures thousands of years to develop and then codify into a written language. It is impossible for a kindergartener to grasp all of the nuances of the English language in a short period of time. It is quite common for students of this age to flip letters, guess words while reading, and have difficulty with vowels.
Children need repetition and consistency of targeted skills with differentiated stimuli.
Since there is so much for an emergent reader to learn, most foundational phonics curricula strategically build on simple skills to make learning more difficult in an incremental way. For example, the Wilson Language Method starts off their curriculum by teaching students rudimentary phonics of the 26 vowels and consonants. Once students have a moderately strong grasp on reading and recalling these phonemes, difficulty can increase by teaching them about digraphs (e.g. th, sh, ch, wh, ck). After students feel comfortable with these skills, we can increase difficulty and learn something new. To be taught effectively, children need repetition and consistency of targeted skills with differentiated stimuli.
What can you do to support your child’s literacy journey?
One thing you can do is to model literacy in your home. Seeing you read will hopefully set up healthy reading habits when they become fluent readers themselves. Another thing you can do is to read to them and to model how to think about the phonics and content. For example, you can model sounding out the word “cat” by breaking it up into three letter sounds /c/ /a/ /t/ and then blending them together.
We are all different.
You can also model how you’re thinking about the information in the text, such as “I think Billy is going to cry on the next page because on this page he fell down and scraped his knee.” Furthermore, if you have older children in your family you can have those kids read to your emergent reader. The more your child is exposed to language, the better their vocabularies and syntax will be.
Most importantly, do not compare your child to other students. As humans we all have our different strengths and weaknesses, and this is no different for children. Accept your child and their abilities and praise them for their hard work and dedication, rather than their level of intelligence. They are learning so much and generally try really hard. Praising your child for their effort and not just how smart they are will keep them motivated and excited to continue learning even in the face of adversity throughout their literacy journey.