What is a struggling reader?

Is my child reading well enough?  Sometimes you know it’s going well — and sometimes you’re not sure.  Your child’s marks in reading are low, or your child has been nominated to reading tutorials after school, or you’re home schooling and your child doesn’t like books like your friend’s kids.  You feel like something might be wrong but you hope that it’s going to be okay.  Somehow.

Yeah I’ve been there.  I had the two oldest daughters who were star readers and then my son came along and he didn’t like books too much.  He didn’t read in kinder, he didn’t read in first grade … long story short in fourth grade I did an extensive intervention following suggestions from Writing Road to Reading and he caught up, but … it wasn’t easy.

How do you know if your child is a struggling reader?  Teachers use a system of book difficulty; if the child can read grade level text at a reasonable rate, it’s not an emergency, generally.  But for parents and home schoolers, who don’t have a leveled library, the problem is harder.

The way to check this at home is, one, use a reading decoding test like the San Diego Quick Assessment.  This test determines your child’s ability to decode text, that is how “hard” the words your child can handle are.  But there is a second question:  how fast can your child read?  This is the fluency question.  Basically, in elementary, the fluency expectations are as follows, in words per minute read.  Find a book your child is comfortable with and wants to read, and see how far they get in a minute.  If they’re reading much slower than their grade shows, they are behind in reading mastery.  How far behind?  That will have to be the subject of a future post.  But if they’re reading at  half the speed suggested or less, I would say you need to consider interventions/extra help, certainly.

Grade                                                                Reading Speed

1 40-60
2-3 60-100
3 100-130
4 130-160
5 160-180
6 180-200
7-8 200-220


2 thoughts on “What is a struggling reader?”

  1. Your posts are very helpful. I might add that monthly tests of the reading ability of young children who are poor readers may be counterproductive. If giving five words of praise for each suggestion is how to motivate a student, these do exactly the wrong thing.
    I am also convinced that fluent reading, while vital to most of us, is not essential for everyone.

    1. Thank you for your comment. As for fluent reading, if what you are saying is that some get by for a lifetime reading at slower speeds, I am sure that is true. Right now, there is tremendous pressure on schools to get every child reading on grade level including in fluency. But sometimes I have to wonder if a more “whole child” approach would be superior.

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