So much is said about literacy today, but what is it and how do we know if a child has a difficulty with it? While literacy is essentially reading and writing, it also includes viewing, speaking and listening to make sense of the world. Literacy is of course an important part of communication, and to be an effective communicator one needs to have adequate literacy skills…especially in today’s world.

Does my child need a reading assessment?

What might the symptoms of literacy difficulty look like?

  • The child may be a hesitant reader and reading is an effort
  • There may be letter confusion e.g. b/d Reversal of letter sequences e.g. ‘saw’ for ‘was’
  • Words like ‘there, their, the’ may be mixed up
  • The child might recognise the letters but not be able to blend them together to make a word
  • Reading is below grade level
  • Familiar language words are not recognised in written form
  • Words that look alike might be substituted
  • Words might be left out or added
  • The child might be better identifying words in context (in sentences), than reading words by themselves
  • The child does not understand what is read. (This may be because of poor decoding, but there may also be an associated language problem).

This list is not exhaustive of course, but if difficulties with reading are noted they should be identified and assessed as early as possible.

It can be difficult to know if your child needs to be assessed for reading difficulties. Understanding your child’s reading comprehension is vital to their success.

We know that literacy is critical in ensuring success at school and in everyday life.

When we think about reading as part of literacy, we need to remember that there are two important parts to consider, because reading not only involves decoding (working out the written code), but also comprehension (making sense of the meaning).

Writing difficulties, including spelling may accompany reading difficulties

What might the symptoms look like?

  • Poor handwriting
  • Numerous spelling errors
  • Messy and badly organised written work Can often “tell it” better than writing it.
  • Trouble copying from the board
  • Lack of awareness of punctuation conventions

Are there other difficulties associated with literacy weakness?

What symptoms might you see?

  • When instructions involve lots of “bits”, the child may not know what to do
  • The child may need lots of reminders to be able to follow instructions at school and at home
  • Difficulty understanding more complex text
  • Long term memory for events etc. might be good, but things that just happened are forgotten or confused
  • (Working) Memory weakness may be associated with literacy difficulties.

Sequencing (putting things in order) difficulties may be noted.

What would these symptoms look like?

  • The child might have difficulty ordering information in a sentence for example
  • Remembering a list of instructions
  • Remembering days of the week, months of the year
  • Spelling and grammar difficulties for example, they may write the never ending sentence using lots of the word “and”

Communication delay is frequently, (but not always) associated with literacy difficulties. 
This is sometimes referred to as LLD (Language Learning Difficulty).

What would these symptoms look like?

  • The child may have, or have had a delay in the onset of speech and language
  • There may be difficulty in expressing thoughts
  • Some people may have found, or find it difficult to understand the child’s speech
  • Some longer words may be mispronounced e.g. “hostipal” instead of “hospital”
  • The child may sometimes get stuck on particular words Language might be simple, lacking more elaborate descriptions
  • The child might appear not to understand, especially concepts and more difficult words The child might experience frustration because communication is difficult.
  • This child can sometimes show frustration physically