A Child Cannot Read At Age 5. What Should Parents Be Doing To Evaluate The Situation?

John Walkup, M.D., Johns Hopkins

Question: A child cannot read at age 5. What should parents be doing to evaluate the situation?

Answer: A child who can't read at age 5 almost nowadays seems like an anomaly. You know in truth, children really didn't begin reading until they were 7-, 8-, 9- years of age. But now with Sesame Street and other kinds of programs, and families getting very excited in children's early life, about reading to them -- all of which are good, we're seeing more and more kids in that 4-, 5-, 6-, and 7- age range who really do a fair job of reading.

I think the most important thing in talking with a family who's got a 5-year-old who doesn't read is really to understand what the nature of that problem is. Is it because the family really hasn't provided that kind of stimulation and this is an otherwise okay kid who's going to learn how to read on time and at school? Or is this a youngster who's really gotten more problems intellectually, has more problems in terms of capacity to read and is really struggling more developmentally?

The best approach to a youngster like this is for families to take a look at themselves -- try and understand as best they can within these parameters and then talk with their pediatrician if they have serious concerns about this youngster not reading.

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