Perhaps you’ve noticed your 2nd grader stumbling over words that you feel they should be comfortable reading by now. Or maybe a teacher has expressed concern about your child’s reading skills at a parent-teacher conference.
Reading problems often appear in second grade because students are expected to have learned many basic decoding skills at this point. Their struggles will become more obvious in second grade, because reading and writing are no longer brand new skills. They have been learning to read for a couple of years now. In fact, second grade is the most common age for parents to seek tutoring! Students in second grade will not be perfect readers and will still read slowly and make mistakes. However, the following are signs that your child may be behind their peers and could benefit from extra help:
1. Your child is still having trouble with letter names or sounds
Many children struggle learning the order of the alphabet or consistently mix up letter names or sounds. While some mistakes are always normal, if your child seems to have gaps in their basic knowledge of letter names or sounds in second grade, they may have a problem. Students commonly mix up vowel sounds or consonants that look similar (i.e. b,d,q,p,g etc.) You can assess your student by showing them each letter of the lowercase alphabet in isolation. If your child is unable to accurately tell you what each sound and letter name are, they should be assessed by a professional.
2. Your child cannot read simple CONSONANT-VOWEL-CONSONANT words accurately
Many books for kindergarteners or first graders include “CVC” words. These are words like “cat, pin, dug, red, pop…” that include one short vowel in the middle. Students in second grade should be able to read these types of simple words accurately. If they are not able to decode simple one syllable words, they will have difficulty reading mult-syllabic words that will be more common in 2nd grade texts.
- Your child is still reading each word “sound-by-sound”
Students who are still reading most words one sound at a time are not “fluent” readers. They are still spending most of their brain power matching sounds to letters in their brains. Their reading will be labored and probably will not make a lot of sense to them. By second grade, students should be able to read texts more fluently, and understand how words string together to create coherent sentences. Second grade is the turning point when students should be focusing more on words than individual sounds.
- Your child does not understand most of what they read
Students in second grade are still early readers and are still learning how to read for meaning. However, they should have a basic understanding of what most stories or non-fiction texts are about even though they might not understand what every single word means. If your child is not able to answer many basic comprehension questions, they may need extra help in comprehension or decoding.
- Your child skips sounds when spelling unfamiliar words
English is an extremely difficult language to spell, due to varied origins and irregular spelling patterns. Spelling mistakes are extremely common, all the way to adulthood. However, if your child is consistently leaving out sounds they may have trouble with phonemic awareness (the awareness of how sounds are organized in words). For example if your child spells “cat” K-A-T they may have used the wrong letter, but they do have a solid awareness of all the sounds needed and what order they go in. If your student spells cat C-T-A, or C-O-T they may have trouble understanding the order of sounds in a word or which letter makes which sound. These are spelling that need more attention, especially by second grade.
- Your child avoids reading or is unable to read independently
By second grade, many students are beginning to read more interesting texts on their own, and some may be beginning to read chapter books. They should be beginning to enjoy reading by themselves because they have mastered basic decoding skills. Children gain motivation when they feel they are having success. If your child is not gaining confidence and enjoyment from reading, they may be showing you they need a little extra help with the basics of reading. If your child is struggling with reading it is not because they are not trying hard enough. It is because they need some help from an adult!