My 7-year-old daughter is repeating the first grade. While she did all right earlier, she is now having problems again with reading and finishing classroom assignments. When we do schoolwork together, she doesn't have many problems, but she has trouble when working alone. How can I motivate her to be a better student? Is it possible that she has a learning disability? - Want to Help


One of the major reasons that we have never been too enthusiastic about retention is that children just do the same work again, and the problems that caused them to fail are rarely identified. Retention is most successful when the problem is immaturity and will simply be resolved by the child growing older.

At this age level, your daughter does not need help in becoming motivated, because she is probably trying very hard to learn to read. Something is making the process difficult for her. It is past time for the school to test her to find out exactly what her problems in reading are and whether or not she has a learning disability. Frankly, this should have been done sooner. The earlier learning difficulties are diagnosed, the easier it is to turn things around.

Continue working with your daughter at home, as she obviously needs your help. At the same time, try to teach her how to tackle her work so she will feel more confident about her ability to work alone. Instead of doing all the work with her, you might go over the directions with her and have her do a few examples before encouraging her to work on her own. And do keep reading to her, as it is the one thing that will keep her motivated to learn to read.