There are definitely many kids who figure out how to read after they find a book they really like. And some kids really do just need time for pre-reading skills to come together and start reading fluently. We’ve worked with families who have multiple children who were delayed readers but learned to read around 3rd or 4th grade without special help. But, much to their surprise, one of the younger kids just couldn’t learn to read the way their siblings did. The hard part with reading is that the longer you wait to see if there is a problem, the longer and more difficult it is to help a student learn to read. And when you consider the toll it takes on a child’s self-esteem to be struggling with reading for a couple of years while their friends start reading chapter books, it begs the question, why wait?
It might seem like 4 or 5 years old is too early to start thinking about reading success, but as it turns out, the single best predictor of reading success can be assessed and strengthened at this age. Phonemic awareness is that predictor. It is a speech level skill, so it is an age-appropriate skill to work on. It is best to continue monitoring reading skills after phonemic awareness is mastered to make sure that the other phases of reading come together for your child.
So, yes, some kids who are struggling to read may figure it out down the road because they come across a book that captures their imagination and compels them to read, but it is so simple to identify and address the areas that a child is struggling with that it makes no sense to take a gamble during the most critical years of developing reading.
At The Reading Clinic, we never push a child to learn how to read but we do assess each foundational skill, in order of importance, and practice those skills until they are automatic. And, of course, we never overlook the magical book that captures their attention and motivates them to read.