Renewal of Literacy

8. Why Does My Child Skip the Small Function Words When Reading?

My 4th grader exhibits a lot of dyslexic characteristics. Starting in the second grade we added in an Orton Gillingham inspired reading curriculum and she is currently able to read books near or on grade level for the most part. The most important improvement for me is that she now loves to read, snuggling up on the couch to read chapter after chapter.

However, while she can read nearly any word, when she reads out loud she still will miss function words (especially “a” and “the”) and word endings ( -s, -ed,..). She also regularly mixes up a with the and closely spelled function words where-there, when-then, and so on. Any suggestions on where we go from here? I require her to read out loud to me still and I try to gently point out that she should give the missed words another look, but I feel like there must be a more effective way to help. We have tried using notecards and fingers for tracking, but that doesn’t really seem to help much. I just recently finished reading the Gift of Dyslexia and will try the methods suggested (making words with clay), but I’d love any suggestions you have.

Thank you for addressing the core problem in second grade. Your student knows how to read (i.e., decode and recognize sight words). You are well on your way to remediating the reading problem. However, something is still off, and you are right to be concerned. What you are describing is not uncommon and could have multiple causes. Pull out a copy of The Roadmap to Literacy. Go to pages 540 and 541. Read about problems with the student’s eyes, particularly eye tracking and Irlen Syndrome. Use the advice on these two pages to screen for both of those first—and follow up with a specialist as needed. Both issues are more common than you might think, and both can usually be remediated quite successfully. However, making clay words as suggested in The Gift of Dyslexia will not help remediate either condition. If you rule out both conditions, it would not hurt to try the suggestions in The Gift of Dyslexia, but I wouldn’t start there.

About the Author Jennifer Militzer-Kopperl