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Ask Dr. Meg: My 1st Grader Can’t Read on His Own – Is This Normal?

When should your child be able to read? Here's how to tell if your child struggles with maturity or development.
Last Updated
March 22, 2023
posted on
November 15, 2015
Minute Read

Hello Dr. Meg,

I am a parent of a 6-year-old son who is in 1st grade. My concern is that he doesn’t know how to read on his own  – he just started 1st grade this year. I read to him daily and I practice with him to read short word sentences. Any suggestions? Also he doesn’t know how to tie his shoes. What can I do to help him improve?

-Worried Mom

Dear Worried Mom-

I’m glad to hear that you have been reading to your son and that you are so engaged in his education. Honestly, many boys don’t read well until the second half of first grade. This has nothing to do with intelligence, but with maturity. SO I would caution you to not over read his poor reading skills at this time. He may have real reading issue or he may not, it’s too soon to tell. Here’s what I would do:

Over the next 3-4 months, continue tor read with him and ask him to read and write. If you see that he is not progressing, find an educational specialist and have him evaluated for learning issues. Again, don’t do this now- wait until closer to the spring because he may learn to read on his own. If your son does have learning problems, he will exhibit things like: not wanting to read or be read to, reversing letters, has difficulty writing or paying attention, has difficulty with very simple math or is poorly coordinated. Now, most first grade boys show several of these signs but what you are looking for over the next months is that these gradually disappear. If they don’t, then it’s time to take him for testing.

Ask his teacher what he/she thinks about his reading after the holidays. Most teachers can spot learning issues, so ask. You might also want to take him to his pediatrician to make sure that he hears and sees well. Sometimes children can’t read because they can’t see or hear adequately.

Once you find the source of the problem (if he has one) an education specialist can give you all sorts of tips for helping him.

Dr. Meg Meeker

Practicing pediatrician, parent, grandparent, coach, speaker, and author. Say hello on instagram: @MegMeekerMD or by email:

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