Is Your First Grader Struggling with Reading?

Free reading screening

Have you been told that your child is reading below grade level?

Your first grader is struggling with reading. How can this be? The school journey has just begun. Then the line after that goes something like this, “Your child needs to read more.” One reason that your first grader may be struggling is that they haven’t been provided the skills needed to read words, much less work on comprehension.

Viva Phonics Helps Struggling Readers

We can help get your child on track for reading success.

Does your child have a reading level?

Does your child’s school send home leveled readers? The sentences are loaded with sight words that have been memorized by your child. The books also contain pictures that match the text. It appears that your child is reading but they are relying on the pictures to help them get through the text. Many of my students have a good knowledge of the “sight” words but have trouble reading simple unfamiliar words. They have not developed the decoding skills to read new words. Kids get into the habit of looking at pictures and guessing based on the first letter because that is what they are taught to do.

Viva Phonics will start reading instruction from scratch. That means that your first grader who is reading below grade level or your 9-year old, 4th grader who struggles with reading will start with the fundamentals of reading. We’ll teach your child how to read in an order that builds from easy to complex, building confidence along the way.

Our goal is to get your child in and out as quickly as possible, but it will take time.
If you’re ready to make a real change and invest in helping your first grader who struggles with reading or your struggling 12-year old, don’t wait. We help students of all ages learn to read.

If you don’t do something soon, your child may never catch up.

Does you child use pictures to “read” words?

“The simple truth was that a child when confronted by a word and a picture, will look at the picture first. The more attractive the picture, the more it will interfere with learning.”

Rudolf Flesch,
Why Johnny Still Can’t Read

If you child is using pictures to read or making a guess based on the first letter, it is a sign that reading will continue to get more difficult. 

Have you ever heard of the 4th-grade slump? Your first grader who reads below grade level will become a 4th-grade struggling reader. By the time a student enters fourth grade, they should be reading 110+ words per minute with at least a 98% accuracy rate. Take a look at a beginning of the year 4th-Grade Oral Reading Fluency Test. Knowing 200 sight words and reading the same words over and over again will not help students reach these benchmarks. I’ve worked with many 9-year old struggling readers who can’t read simple words such as “fed,” “band,” and “click.”

There are  numerous “reading strategies” that are encouraged. “Look at the picture!” “Try a word that makes sense!”
And when you hear your first grader read, they substitute words, make guesses, insert words, or skip words entirely! They will continue to struggle and their self-confidence will tank.
Please don’t encourage these methods. These habits are hard to break!

Do you know if your child’s reading is improving?

The most common assessments used to determine a student’s level are deeply flawed. In one study the researchers found the Benchmark Assessment System by Fountas and Pinnell used widely in schools, only accurately identified 48% of at-risk students (Durwin et al., 2017). In a different study, the Informal Reading Inventory, also provided by F&P, only accurately identified 54% of at-risk students (Parker et al., 2015).

That means that the test is only right about half the time. The other side of this coin is that your child may need extra support and is probably not receiving intervention at the most critical time. The test has failed to identify your child as at-risk.

Here comes the 4th grade slump. There are no more pictures to help children read words. Children guess when they don’t know a word and now their comprehension is affected. Kids get discouraged and begin to disengage.

And the vicious cycle of intervention continues. Your first grader will continue to struggle with reading for years.
The goal is getting further and further out of reach.

Viva Phonics uses a more reliable measure to evaluate your child’s reading skills. You can read more about DIBELS here.


Durwin, Cheryl C.; Moore, Dina; and Carroll, Deborah A., “Can Brief, Evidence-Based Measures Be Effective RTI Screens in Urban Schools? A Preliminary Study” (2017). 
NERA Conference Proceedings 2017.

Parker, D.C., Zaslofsky, A.F., Burns, M.K., Kanive, R., Hodgson, J., Scholin, S.E., & Klingbeil, D.A. (2015). A brief report of the diagnostic accuracy of oral reading fluency and reading inventory levels for reading failure risk among second- and third-grade students. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 31(1), 56-67.