Reading and Writing for Kids

Reading and writing for kids

Fifth Graders Just Want to Have Fun!

Mom worries that 5th grade son just wants to ride his bike and struggles with reading and writing. Dr. Linda says that’s normal and explains why kids struggle with school.

Dear Dr.Linda,
Our son is in 5th grade and his teacher just called us in for a conference. She said that he’s really smart, but he needs help with reading and writing. Every night we make him read, but he fights with us.

We tell him that he has to rewrite his homework so it’s not sloppy, but he ends up crying and we end up screaming. He’s so lazy. All he wants to do is ride his bike and play.

What do we do?

Parents of Fifth Grade Boy

Dear Parents of Fifth Grader,
Your son sounds like a normal healthy fifth grade boy. Most fifth grade boys don’t want to read or write. They want to play and that’s what they need to do after a long day at school. That’s part of childhood. When a child doesn’t want to do schoolwork, it doesn’t mean he’s lazy. He is a child, and he’s not interested in reading and writing right now. Hopefully, in time, that will happen. Reading and writing for kids is often a struggle, especially for boys.

Take a minute to put yourself in his shoes. Think of something you’re not interested in doing. Now, picture someone telling you that you have to do that every day for 7 hours each day and 2 hours more each evening. Oh, and you’ll be graded on it, too. Besides that, if you’re not good at it, you’ll have to practice even more hours. What would you do?

You’d probably try to avoid it, too. Does that mean you’re lazy? No. We avoid things that we’re not interested in or do not like. We also avoid things that are difficult.

Reading and Writing for Kids: Is It Too Hard?

With that said, you need to find out if your son avoids reading and writing because they are difficult for him. For example, in reading, he may be having trouble decoding so he misses many words, or he may not know the vocabulary so he misses the meaning of the story.

Many times we think a child has problems with comprehension, when in fact, the problem is that they don’t know some of the words in the story.

If writing is a problem, it may be that he is unable to think of what to write. Or, if he does write something, he may be afraid that if it’s too messy, someone will make him rewrite it. So, he writes as little as possible—or nothing at all—to avoid the consequences of a poorly written paper.

If reading and writing for kids is a struggle, it’s important to find out why.

What Causes Reading and Writing Struggles?

As I always stress when I consult with parents, you need to find out what is causing your son to struggle in reading and writing. His sloppiness is only the symptom (that we see), but what causes the sloppiness is another story. Naturally, it could be that he’s rushing through his work so he can go out to play.

On the other hand, it may be that he has mild dysgraphia which makes writing difficult and painful. Difficulties in reading could be caused by dyslexia.

Talk to his teacher so you can get to the bottom of the problem. If you prefer, look for someone outside the school for a professional evaluation. Don’t simply assume that it’s laziness. As a good caring parent, help your child by trying to find out what is causing the issues you describe.

You’ll find more suggestions for helping your son in school in our book, Why Bad Grades Happen to Good Kids

Dr. Linda Silbert

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Phonics Centered — Consistent with Orton-Gillingham — Multisensory