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Retention for Reading Difficulties
Q: What is your opinion of holding back a first grade boy, who is reading at a low level?
A: Retention should only be the last resort. It is not good for most children. In fact, children who are promoted usually make better progress than similar children who are retained. Plus, retention is very traumatic for children, depriving them of same-age friends and affecting their self-concept and level of confidence.
Many adults who have been retained say it was the worst event in their lives. Of course, retention can be successful, especially when it is strongly supported by parents and done in the early grades. It must also put children in a program that is different from the failing year. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to predict when retention will be successful.
You need to spend some time analyzing your son's situation very carefully in order to come up with the best solution. How old is your son? Did he start school early? How is his vision? How is he doing in his other subjects? And most important of all: Why is he having reading problems and how can he be put on the road to becoming a successful reader? We recommend that you ask the school to evaluate your son's reading so that he can receive the specialized help he needs.
Meanwhile, it is quite possible that things can be turned around fairly swiftly for your son by special help at school and home as well as a rigorous effort this summer to improve his reading. You can enroll him in a summer reading program at his school, a local college, or a commercial learning center or get him a tutor. A commercial phonics program might be helpful. Ask the teacher for suggestions, and begin helping him at home.
Your child's reading problems will not go away without some specialized help. You can't sit back and expect him to become a good reader just because you decide to have him repeat first grade.
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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.