Is Retention the Answer?

Retention not the answer for dylsexia

Holding Kids With Dyslexia Back a Grade is Not the Answer!

Dr Linda argues that retention is never the answer for slow readers. Instead get them the appropriate remedial help.

Dear Dr. Linda,
My mom, who lives in South Carolina, told me she read that her state is planning to improve their educational performance with a new plan to go into effect in 2017.

They’re proposing that any child who’s not reading at a third grade level by the end of third grade will be retained.

I almost choked when I read that.

My son who’s in 8th grade has severe dyslexia. He reads at a third grade level. By the way, he’s also is on the honor roll. If they kept him back because of his reading, he’d still be in third grade!

How can I, and other parents of children who have dyslexia and other learning issues, get through to the people who make these laws? Any advice will help.

Thanks, Alison.

Dear Alison,
Since I haven’t read the article, nor do I know about the new law in South Carolina, it’s difficult to comment on this. However, if that’s mandated by 2017, I hope there’s more to it because retention should not be an option.

Many reasons can cause children to read at lower level than their grade level. However, when people ask me “Is retention the answer for slow readers,” my answer is always ‘no.”

For example, children with dyslexia have difficulty putting a sound with the image. It does not mean reading backwards as they used to think years ago. This neurologically-based disorder is often genetic.

How to Help Children Who Can’t Read:

  • If a child has difficulty recalling a sound to put with the letters he sees on the page, he needs to be given a strong phonics program. The child may have dyslexia. For more about dyslexia, see the International Dyslexia Association
  • Many children can put the sound with the image but take a very long time to do so. In that case, all these children need is more time.
  • Some children who do poorly in reading have difficulty with understanding what they’re reading. In other words, they have poor reading comprehension. They read as if they’re reading a word list. If a child has reading comprehension issues, they may need to be taught how to visualize, or subvocalize, or increase their vocabulary.
  • Still others find reading difficult because they don’t stay on task. They simply can’t sit still long enough to focus on reading. It’s a problem with focusing and paying attention, not a reading issue. It helps to have breaks between periods of reading so kids can get up and move around. And reading books that interest kids will boost attention. Children can be tested for ADHD
  • Finally, some children have more difficulty learning than others. These children have their own special needs. Children can be tested at school for learning disabilities to see if they qualify for extra help

The complimentary Dyslexia Toolkit has games, songs, and fun activities for kids who struggle with reading, even if they haven’t been diagnosed with dyslexia. Get the Dyslexia Toolkit today to help your child with reading challenges.

When is Retention the Answer for Young Kindergarteners?

The only time a child would be retained because of not reading is when the child is developmentally delayed. That would have been caught before the child started school.

Many children whose birthdays are near the cut off date are usually a few months behind. For example, if the cut off date is January 1, and the child’s birthday is in November, December, or even October or September, they may need some extra time to catch up. If the child doesn’t have neurological issues, she’ll catch up on her own, and in many cases surpass her classmates.

These kids shouldn’t be retained. Many parents with children who have birthdays near the cut off date don’t have their child start school until the next year. They claim that by doing this their child has learned to read without problems. For some, this wouldn’t have made any difference. It’s a personal choice.

Parents and others who are not professional educators often complain that kids are being pushed through school. For example, if a child can’t read at a third grade level by the end of the third grade, the child will be retained. The problem is not the child, but the methodology the school is using.

Everyone learns differently and at their own pace. As you said, if that rule applied to your son, he’d still be in third grade. Retention is a dangerous strategy.

Research has been shown that it creates embarrassment and a life long feeling of low self-esteem. Children have a need to belong. They don’t want to feel different. When they’re a year older, have a different birth year, and are taller than the other students, it creates problems.

In addition, these children usually have a learning disability which means they are now not only the oldest in the class but still reading behind everyone else.

Let’s not focus on a child’s failure but on how to help that child succeed. If we don’t, our educational system will be failing our children.

Dr. Linda Silbert

P.S. Children who struggle with reading love playing games. Be sure to check out my inexpensive reading card and lotto games.


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