What to do if your kindergartner is struggling with beginning reading skills.

Kindergarten is a big transition for most kids. It's natural to think that children struggling with beginning reading may just need more time to settle in and that they will catch up on their own. This may be true for some children, but research shows that many will remain behind unless they get the right kind of reading instruction quickly. And the longer we wait to address the problem, the harder it becomes to close that gap.

Here are some early reading and writing skills kindergartners should show near the beginning of the school year, especially if they attended preschool and you read frequently with them at home:

  1. Name most alphabet letters and their common sounds
  2. Read and write their name
  3. Start reading and writing a few other words they have seen frequently
  4. Name words that rhyme (car, star, bar)
  5. Name words that start with the same sound (bed, ball, bat)
  6. Separate and blend letter sounds in simple words (c-a-t = cat; s-u-n = sun)

Regardless of where your child starts, you should see steady progress as the teacher and you work on these skills each day. If you are concerned:

  1. Talk with the teacher about your child’s progress on these specific skills.
  2. Ask for results on any reading tests given at school, with an explanation of where your child is on track and behind, compared with classmates.
  3. Complete the Preschool Reading Screener on this website (if your child is not yet 6 years old).
  4. Use activities on this website to build reading readiness skills at home.
  5. Talk with your doctor and check your child’s hearing and vision.
  6. If your child continues to struggle, ask for extra help through small-group activities at school.
  7. Ask the teacher to use materials and strategies proven by research to work with struggling readers, and that are: explicit, multi-sensory, and build systematically from easier to harder.

If progress remains slow, ask for a comprehensive evaluation at school and more instruction in a small group, using a research-based program. Consider an evaluation by a child psychologist or reading specialist in the community, followed by private tutoring with a reading specialist if needed. Nearly all children can learn to read. But the path is easier when the right tools are used from the start, and any delays are acted upon early.