Friday, March 4, 2011
By: Susan Hall (2009)
Parents are often the first to suspect their child has a reading problem. An expert alerts parents to some of the earliest indicators of a reading difficulty.
A parent may be the first person in a child's life to recognize a reading problem. A parent's observation is critical because some of the earliest signs that foreshadow a reading difficulty can be seen during preschool and kindergarten years.
Difficulty manipulating sounds in words is one of the hallmark characteristics of reading difficulties and can be seen at a young age. Your child might struggle with rhyming, word games, or recognizing words that start with the same sound.
Often children who had repeated ear infections or speech delays during their early years eventually have trouble learning to read. Children who have articulation problems or are late to talk, as compared to peers, should not only receive a speech and hearing screening during the preschool years but should be monitored for possible reading difficulty.
Let's turn to some stories from parents of children who later had trouble reading. What were some warning signs they saw as early as the preschool years?
One parent first noticed her daughter couldn't learn letter and number symbols when she was a preschooler. Despite the mother's extensive efforts to teach her daughter the alphabet, her child entered kindergarten knowing only 2 of the 26 letters.
Another mother noticed just before her son's third birthday that he wasn't speaking at the level of his peers. He had experienced repeated ear infections and later had tubes inserted; his speech improved somewhat, but he eventually had reading problems.
Another parent first began to suspect a problem when her preschool son disliked nursery rhymes. She would leave off the last word to see if he could fill in the blank of the rhyme. Despite having heard the same rhyme many times, he couldn't do it. He just didn't seem to recognize the pattern of similar sounding words that is characteristic of rhyming.
Sometimes parents notice difficulties during first grade because a child who's just beginning to learn to read may have trouble making associations between sounds and letters. Problems include detecting differences in speech sounds and performing tasks that require this skill, such as:
Pronouncing new words and remembering them
Breaking words apart into sounds
Blending sounds together to make words
Remembering the names and sounds of the letters
A child with weak phonological skills often prefers to guess at unknown words while reading because he is not very good at figuring out the sounds or blending them together. Being able to sound out unknown words is an important skill your child needs in order to read text. Beyond third grade, the text contains more difficult words that often cannot be predicted from context clues or limited pictures.
If you ask your first grader to read aloud to you and he resists doing so, this may be a warning that there's a problem. Children who struggle often find reading is such a belabored process they avoid it.
By the middle of first grade your child should be able to read at least 100 common words, such as the, and, and is, and know the letter-sound associations well enough to read words in simple books. Watch for these warning signs as you listen to your child read aloud:
Doesn't know the sounds associated with all of the letters
Skips words in a sentence and doesn't stop to self-correct
Can't remember words; sounds out the same word every time it occurs on the page
Frequently guesses at unknown words rather than sounding them out
You can also look at your child's writing for clues about reading difficulty. By the end of kindergarten a child should be writing words that contain most of the consonant sounds in a word, even though the vowels will often be missing or inaccurate until later.
These warning signs can be helpful to parents who suspect learning to read isn't progressing smoothly. However, just because your child is struggling doesn't necessarily mean there is a serious problem. Learning to read is a complex process that doesn't occur overnight for most children; it takes time and plenty of direct, systematic instruction.
It's important not to panic if you see some of these warning signs in your child. Lists of early warning signs can help you be on the lookout; however, there is no precise list of surefire signs of a reading difficulty. Each child is unique and may exhibit only some of the signs. Knowing what to look for can help you decide whether you need to investigate further. Calm and reasoned reactions are the most effective for your child.
Hall, S. Early Signs of a Reading Difficulty. GreatSchools Inc., Retrieved September 1, 2009, from http://www.greatschools.net/LD/identifying/early-signs-of-reading-difficulty.gs?content=739.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
Successful women know only too well that in any male-dominated profession, we often find ourselves at a distinct disadvantage. We are routinely underestimated, underutilized and even underpaid. Studies show that women need to perform at extraordinarily high levels, just to appear moderately competent compared to our male coworkers.
But in my experience, smart and talented women rarely realize that one of the toughest hurdles they'll have to overcome to be successful lies within. Compared with our male colleagues, we judge our own abilities not only more harshly but fundamentally differently. Understanding why we do it is the first step to righting a terrible wrong. And to do that, we need to take a step back in time.
Chances are good that if you are a successful professional today, you were a pretty bright fifth grade girl. My graduate advisor, psychologist Carol Dweck (author of "Mindset") conducted a series of studies in the 1980s, looking at how Bright Girls and boys in the fifth grade handled new, difficult and confusing material.
She found that Bright Girls, when given something to learn that was particularly foreign or complex, were quick to give up; the higher the girls' IQ, the more likely they were to throw in the towel. In fact, the straight-A girls showed the most helpless responses. Bright boys, on the other hand, saw the difficult material as a challenge, and found it energizing. They were more likely to redouble their efforts rather than give up.
Why does this happen? What makes smart girls more vulnerable and less confident when they should be the most confident kids in the room? At the 5th grade level, girls routinely outperform boys in every subject, including math and science. So there were no differences between these boys and girls in ability, nor in past history of success. The only difference was how bright boys and girls interpreted difficulty -- what it meant to them when material seemed hard to learn. Bright Girls were much quicker to doubt their ability, to lose confidence and to become less effective learners as a result.
Researchers have uncovered the reason for this difference in how difficulty is interpreted, and it is simply this: More often than not, Bright Girls believe that their abilities are innate and unchangeable, while bright boys believe that they can develop ability through effort and practice.
How do girls and boys develop these different views? Most likely, it has to do with the kinds of feedback we get from parents and teachers as young children. Girls, who develop self-control earlier and are better able to follow instructions, are often praised for their "goodness." When we do well in school, we are told that we are "so smart," "so clever, " or "such a good student." This kind of praise implies that traits like smartness, cleverness and goodness are qualities you either have or you don't.
Boys, on the other hand, are a handful. Just trying to get boys to sit still and pay attention is a real challenge for any parent or teacher. As a result, boys are given a lot more feedback that emphasizes effort (e.g., "If you would just pay attention you could learn this," "If you would just try a little harder you could get it right.") The net result: When learning something new is truly difficult, girls take it as sign that they aren't "good" and "smart," and boys take it as a sign to pay attention and try harder.
We continue to carry these beliefs, often unconsciously, around with us throughout our lives. And because Bright Girls are particularly likely to see their abilities as innate and unchangeable, they grow up to be women who are far too hard on themselves -- women who will prematurely conclude that they don't have what it takes to succeed in a particular arena, and give up way too soon.
Even if every external disadvantage to a woman's rising to the top of an organization is removed -- every inequality of opportunity, every chauvinistic stereotype, all the challenges we face balancing work and family -- we would still have to deal with the fact that through our mistaken beliefs about our abilities, we may be our own worst enemy.
How often have you found yourself avoiding challenges and playing it safe, sticking to goals you knew would be easy for you to reach? Are there things you decided long ago that you could never be good at? Skills you believed you would never possess? If the list is a long one, you were probably one of the Bright Girls -- and your belief that you are "stuck" being exactly as you are has done more to determine the course of your life than you probably ever imagined. This would be fine, if your abilities were innate and unchangeable. Only they're not.
No matter the ability -- whether it's intelligence, creativity, self-control, charm or athleticism -- studies show them to be profoundly malleable. When it comes to mastering any skill, your experience, effort and persistence matter a lot. So if you were a Bright Girl, it's time to toss out your (mistaken) belief about how ability works, embrace the fact that you can always improve and reclaim the confidence to tackle any challenge that you lost so long ago.
Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D..Motivational psychologist and author
Posted: March 1, 2011 07:36 AM