Q:

My daughter repeated first grade this year, only because of her reading. She still has problems sounding words out and knowing the different sounds of vowels. For example, in the word "ride" she does not understand that the "e" makes the "i" have the long sound. Do you have any suggestions on what I can do to help her out? -- Mother of Non-reader

A:

Your daughter is the perfect example of why we are generally against retention. The school did not take the time to analyze why your daughter was unable to master basic reading skills the first year. Now your daughter is in exactly the same place she was last year at this time -- she is still unable to read.

If any of our readers have a child who a school wishes to retain, it is imperative for you to find out exactly what the child's problems are. You must also know how the school plans to resolve them if the child is retained. Retention alone is not a miracle worker in most cases. In fact, most children who are retained do not do as well subsequently as those with equal abilities who were promoted to the next grade.

This is serious. You need to act quickly and insist that your daughter be tested to specifically pinpoint why she is having such difficulties acquiring basic reading skills. The school then needs to develop a solid summer program that will help her. This might involve summer school, a tutor, a learning center or a college reading center.

Incidentally, once you know exactly what your child's reading problems are, you might be able to help her. Besides following suggestions from the school, visit www.readingrockets.org/helping to find out the many ways parents can work with their children to improve specific reading problems.