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famzamora
famzamora asks:
Q:

Does anyone have advice on how to encourage a bright first grader whose 4 year old sister is having a better time at reading and writing?

My 6 year old son is having trouble keeping up with his 5 year old little sister at reading and writing. She can read faster and for longer periods of time,also she can retain and interpret what she read better than him. He gets discouraged and loses interest when he sees the difference between their reading levels. I have to admit, my husband and I where encouraging a little competition between them and even accused him of being a bit lazy for not wanting to keep at it, but now realized it backfired since my son seems so frustrated with reading that it seems to be a punishment for him to even ask him to try harder. I thought it could be learning disability but sometimes it seems the is a lack of motivation what's keeping him from doing it. Whatever it might be, I would like to find a way to help him connect with his love for books and reading again. Maybe I need to change my approach to teaching him. We home-school so I've been paying close attention to how he learns. I find that he understands things better when he can hear them. He knows all the letters and their sounds but he often confuses easy words like, spoon for snow and blue for bell. I also noticed that when he struggles with a word, he gets really close to it as if he could not see it well, but I know his sight is fine. He also says that because he is learning to read Spanish at the same time it gets confusing, I don't know. Do bilingual children learning to read usually struggle with this?
Any suggestions?
In Topics: Helping my child with reading, Motivation and achievement at school, Learning a second language
> 60 days ago

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Expert

Louiseasl
Dec 9, 2011
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What the Expert Says:

Hello and thank you for writing to JustAsk!

I will try to shed some light on what may be happening with your son.

First, it is not uncommon for a young child of your son's age to confuse letters in words and words in sentences. This sometimes happens and multi-modal approaches (see, hear, kinesthetic) can help ameliorate the situation. Also, try having him "read" or tell you a story. This can be a powerful learning strategy.  And eReaders can be useful, too.

Also, it would appear that if your daughter is reading rather fluently by age five and better than your son that she may be ahead of her age mates, thus skewing the curve a bit.

As of for if he has a learning disability, the only way to know that for certain is to start a formal special education process which would necessitate connecting with the local school system or having  a private consultant / evaluator, at your own expense.

As for learning Spanish at the same time as English. It may be possible that as a second language learner he is confusing the two languages in print.  So, perhaps for now having only one language offered in print would be helpful. However, that does not mean that hearing conversation, song or lessons in Spanish cannot be continued. The website LanguageCastle.com may be of assistance to you.

Here are some websites to guide you:

http://www.nasponline.org
http://www.languagecastle.com
http://www.rif.org/us/literacy-resources/articles/literacy-milestones-from-birth-to-age-six.htm

Good luck-

Louise Sattler
Psychologist

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Additional Answers (4)

WorriedParent
WorriedParent writes:
Find something that he is better at than his sister (bet it's math) and encourage him (in front of her).
Then encourage you children to help each other - you will be surprised how children learn from each other!
> 60 days ago

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brchacon
brchacon writes:
First, I would make sure to read books to him that he finds interesting and fun.  Take regular trips to your local library and let him check out whatever he wants (within reason.)  This is a way to model good reading for him and take the stress away from it.  I would also try to read with him without his sister in the room.


Are you using a phonics approach?  Many students need explicit instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics.  He is probably not confusing spoon for snow, what he is doing is looking at the first letter of the words and then using contextual guessing (the other words and the story) to read the word.  If so, this is an indication that he is struggling with phonics.  I would recommend doing the San Diego assessment with him to see if he is struggling with particular phonics components.  If he does have dyslexia, he will have a lot of difficulty with phonemic awareness activities and you may want to look into further testing.  If he does have a learning disability do something about it as soon as possible.  Early intervention is critical, you may want to consider public education where there are specialists trained to provide him specific help.

The web site I included has an excellent phonics test you could give your son to determine if he is having decoding difficulties.  I don't know if the other materials they are selling are good or not.

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carlgundestrup
carlgundest... writes:
I have a friend who's son has a physical eye problem and reading challenges because of it. Something that worked for Trina was a read-along audio book. "Tales from Captain Davy Jones Locker- Quetzalcoatl" Basically a boy with only 1 good leg and no friends, rescues a legendary sea creature and together they face the world. It has a full cast of characters, fully orchestrated music and complete sound effects that grab and hold children's attention. There's a read-along workbook with the script of the story and over 50 pages of fun activities.
My neighbor teaches 4Th grade and Marty Anne says she has kids who read word perfect... but have NO images in their minds of what they are reading. When kids... especially boys, can visualize, when they can turn words into "pictures or scenes" in their minds then Reading becomes an adventure instead of a chore. Get him to "Just listen". The music and sound effects take children into another world. If you can ignite a boy's imagination you can build an avid reader.
> 60 days ago

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judymendelson
judymendelson writes:
I have been  a first grade teacher for 26 years.  I answer this problem all the time.  Tell your son that "we don't all learn how to talk at the same age, we don't all learn how to walk at the same time and we certainly don't  learn to read at the same age.  Some people take a little longer than others but we all end up learning how to read. Then point out all the things he can do better than his 4 year old sister.  For example, maybe he can run faster than her or maybe he knows more about cars.  Finally, read him the book "Leo the late Bloomer," and then have a discussion about what the author is trying to teach us.  
I hope this helps.
> 60 days ago

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