Q:

What do you think about holding back a first-grade boy who is currently reading a little below grade level? -- Wondering

A:

We generally do not support retention. How well is your son performing in the other academic areas? Also, exactly how far below grade level is he reading? These are vital considerations. Retention should only be the last resort. It typically is not beneficial for most children. Children who are promoted usually make better progress than similar children who are retained.

Spend some time analyzing your son's situation very carefully in order to decide if retention is the answer. Be sure to enlist the opinion of your child's teacher. Begin by finding out why he is having reading problems and how he can be put on the road to becoming a successful reader. You need to ask the school or the teacher right away to evaluate his current reading level so that he can receive the specialized help he needs to improve his weak reading skills this summer.

It is quite possible that things can be turned around fairly swiftly for your son with a rigorous effort during summer to improve his reading. You can enroll him in a summer reading program at his school, a local college or a commercial learning center, or get him a tutor. A commercial phonics program might be helpful. Be sure to talk over these alternatives with his teacher.

Even if your son's reading skills are not quite up to grade level by the end of summer, consider letting him go on to second grade. Those who worked with him during the summer should have input into your decision. Retention probably is not the best solution for a child reading only a little below grade level. However, ensure that he gets continuing help in some form in the future until he is reading on grade level.