6. How Do You Know When There is a Remedial Reading Problem?

With the “later timetable” for reading in the Waldorf approach, how do we know when there’s a problem and we need to seek extra help?

This is a very important question. If there is a reading problem and you wait, the problem will be harder to remediate.  If there isn’t a problem, you have put your student through extra stress (and your household through extra expense and/or hassle) for nothing.

There are three caveats that should be mentioned up front:

When to Seek Help Immediately

1.       If your student is in fourth grade or beyond and cannot read at grade level, take your child for extra help immediately. The curriculum switches from teaching reading and math skills in grades 1–3 to teaching subjects in grades 4–8. You should no longer be teaching the students how to read; instead, they should be reading to learn. Steiner promised the educational authorities of his day that the students would be caught up with their public-school peers at the end of third grade, sixth grade, and again at eighth grade. These are good parameters to follow.

2.       If your family has a history of dyslexia and the student is your biological child, seek extra help immediately if the student struggles to rhyme words in Kindergarten, as this is a major indicator of dyslexia. The student’s brain is very open to change at this age, but the window closes rapidly. The sooner you address the problem, the easier it will be for your child to learn.

3.       If your child shows any physical signs of distress while doing academic work, seek help immediately. It should not be physical challenging for a student to look at a page of text, hold a pencil and learn to write letters, or do any other academic task. If your child shows signs of physical difficulty, including fatiguing easily despite adequate food, water, and sleep, seek help.

For more information, see chapter 6.6 Working with Remedial Issues in The Roadmap to Literacy.

If these three situations do not apply, then follow these suggestions:

  • Make sure you are following a solid, sequential curriculum such as the one in The Roadmap to Literacy or other quality reading programs. If you are and your child is making progress, as shown by the assessments you are using, there is nothing to be concerned about. (If you are not using assessments, you can find some in the books Assessing Reading Multiple Measures For Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade edited by Linda Diamond and Words Their Way: Word Study for Phonics, Vocabulary, and Spelling Instruction by Bear et al.)
  • Use The Roadmap to Literacy to assess your child’s phase (see chapter 6.2: What Phase are Your Students In?). Continue to assess using formal and informal methods over the course of the year (see section six: Assessment). If you see that your student is making the expected progress moving through the phases, assume that everything is fine (unless you see signs of physical difficulty, as discussed above).

The reality is, most students can be taught to read at ages 5 and 6. Waldorf waits until they are older not because they cannot be taught at that young age but because they should not be. Children benefit from a chance to complete certain aspects of development before beginning school. They should be ready for academic work around age 7. If you are using a quality curriculum, teaching your student to read and spell should not be difficult. If you see something is amiss and it is not your teaching, you should check it out. While there are late bloomers and dreamy students, they tend to be the exception rather than the rule. It is important to do due diligence before assuming you have one on your hands. The longer you wait to remediate, the harder it will be to do so—for everyone, but most especially your child.

There is an entire chapter in The Roadmap to Literacy dedicated to this topic: Chapter 6.6 Working with Remedial Issues. It provides a useful template to follow if you have concerns that there is a problem and you need to seek extra help. It will take you through the steps and help you find the help you and your child need.

Good luck!

About the Author Jennifer Militzer-Kopperl