Help! I have a conference with my son's teacher next week. He's in first grade, and the school is saying that he is a pre-emergent reader. What does that mean? They also say that his current reading level is K-9, and he should now be reading 1.4. He is working with a private tutor who says he is reading higher. What questions should I ask at the conference? -- Concerned Parent


Learning to read is a process that children accomplish by going through several steps. Being a pre-emergent reader is the step before becoming a beginning or emergent reader. Your son probably knows the names of some letters, is able to read some signs and labels, and can recognize his own name. He may be able to do more than this; however, he'll need to start sounding out words, read simple words and his own writing to advance to the next step as a reader.

Reading grade scores are typically given in terms of years and tenths because there are 10 months in the school year. Your son's reading level is equivalent to the ninth month of kindergarten according to the school. All these scores really do is suggest that your son is having some problems learning to read.

Your son is on the path to becoming a reader; however, many of the other students in his class are likely to be traveling at a faster pace. At the conference ask the teacher:

  • How significant do my son's reading problems appear to be?
  • What are his strengths and weaknesses in reading?
  • What can the school do to help him?
  • What can I and the tutor do to help him?

You need to make sure that you do the things that the teacher suggests on a regular basis. You can't just leave it for the tutor to do. And it is very important that you confer frequently with the teacher on the progress your son is making.