How Do I Know If My Child Is Making Progress?

Parents of struggling readers can have an excruciatingly difficult time finding effective help for their children. Sandie Barrie Blackley, MA/CCC, co-founder of Lexercise, kicks off a four-part series for parents: “How Do I Know If My Child Is Making Progress?” This is Part 1.


Is your child struggling to read?

If you suspect your child may be having trouble reading, but you’re just not sure—you’re not alone! Many parents have a hard time figuring out if their child is reading normally or not.

The good news is there are some very simple methods you can use at home to estimate how accurately your child is reading. We will discuss one technique today and others in each of the next three editions of this newsletter.

Here’s a simple test you can try right away. It will only take about five minutes.

What You’ll Need to Perform this Reading Test

• Pen/pencil and paper.
• A kitchen timer.
• Reading material – ideally this should be something age- and grade-appropriate, like homework or a book that your child has brought home from school.
• A pocket calculator might be helpful.

Set the stage:

• Remove distractions by turning off the television, computer, games, phones, and other media – yours and your child’s!
• Find a place where there is adequate light for reading and where you and your child can be alone and undisturbed for five minutes or so.

Reading test:

• Look at the reading material and select a passage that might take your child about a minute to read—a half-page, a page, or more, depending on your child’s age and reading level.
• Read the passage silently to yourself so you are familiar with the words.
• Put the pen and paper in your lap or someplace where your writing won’t distract your child.
• Set the timer for one minute.
• Ask your child to read the passage out loud as you start the timer.
• Listen carefully and follow along.
• Every time your child makes a mistake—says the wrong word, adds a word, asks for help with a word, or skips a word—make a mark on your paper.
• When the one-minute timer rings, ask your child to stop reading.
• Make a note of the very last word the child reads.
• Thank your child for doing such a great job and let the child go play if desired.

Calculate the percentage of accuracy:

• Count the total number of words in the printed passage your child read (for example, 50).
• Add up the marks you made, indicating your child’s reading errors (for example, 6).
• Subtract the number of errors from the total words read (50 – 6 = 44 correct).
• To get the percentage of accuracy, divide the correct words by the total words (44/50 = 88%).

The percentage of accuracy tells you how your child’s reading measures up to the material the child is getting in school. If the child is reading at grade level, the number should be about 97 percent or higher – in our example, 1 or 2 errors out of 50 words. That means your child is able to read independently, without help.

If the child’s score is closer to 93 percent, the child probably cannot read that material entirely on his or her own. Under 90 percent, your child is likely to struggle and be frustrated and to say that the material doesn’t make sense.

If your child’s percentage of accuracy is in the mid to low 90s or lower, it’s time to seek help. School work involving reading will be too frustrating and too hard for your child—and it is likely that the child will continue to fall behind until his or her reading skills improve.

If you think your child may have a reading problem and you would like to get a professional evaluation or talk with a clinician, contact us.

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Sandie Barrie Blackley, MA/CCC

MA/CCC - Cofounder and CKO

Sandie is a speech-language pathologist with more than 30 years of experience in the private practice sector. She is Visiting Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders at University of North Carolina Greensboro, and founder/owner of the Language & Learning Clinic, PLLC, a private practice in Elkin, NC, and Greensboro, NC, specializing in communication disorders, including disorders of reading and written language.