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illustration of young girl struggling with reading and writing

Struggling Readers

Reading Risk Indicators by Grade Level

The following is a general list of risk factors for reading difficulties by grade level. Please note that the list is not all-inclusive and should be interpreted with reference to age and grade expectations.

Risk indicators for preschool

  • A history of significant language delay or disorder, even if the child currently appears to have age-appropriate language abilities
  • Limited exposure to oral and written language before beginning school
  • A native language other than English
  • A disability that affects oral language acquisition, such as a hearing impairment
  • A significant history of reading difficulties in close family members
  • Oral language difficulties (poor vocabulary, listening comprehension, or grammatical abilities for the child’s age)

Risk indicators for children in kindergarten and first grade

All of the above, plus the following:

  • Poor phonological/phonemic awareness (inability to rhyme, identify initial and final sounds of spoken words, or to blend and segment one-syllable spoken words)
  • Lack of familiarity with basic print concepts such as (1) print conveys meaning, (2) print is read left to right, and (3) words are separated by spaces
  • Poor knowledge of common letter-sound relationships
  • Difficulty decoding unfamiliar words at the middle or end of first grade, especially as measured by reading of nonsense words such as zat

Risk indicators for children in second and third grade

All of the above, plus the following:

  • Ongoing difficulties with decoding of unfamiliar words
  • Slow, labored, dysfluent reading in grade-appropriate text
  • Poor reading comprehension
  • Poor spelling
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