Four Things to do When Your Child Didn't Benchmark on the DIBELS

Reading struggles are common. So you should certainly be concerned when your child doesn’t perform well on the DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills).  This is a big red flag to pay attention to since the DIBELS is a screening tool that checks to see if kids have the ability to do different tasks such as recognizing initial sounds in words,  segmenting words into sounds, and reading nonsense words, which are foundational to reading. Reading researchers have figured out that if kids can do these tasks with a certain level of speed, the likelihood that they will be successful students, that is that they can learn from what they are reading, is quite high. So, if your child didn’t benchmark on DIBELS, you need to act now!  It’s imperative to your child’s future success in school. Reading is king; If your child reads poorly, they will struggle to learn and are in serious jeopardy of falling behind in school and failing.

So what should you do? Here are four things to start with:

  1. Ask your child about the day they took the DIBELS. Was there anything going on that would interfere with an accurate screening. For example, do they remember feeling hungry or sick? Was there a lot of noise in the room?  Any of these situations and others can cause kids to perform poorly and not reflect their actual ability. A retake of the screening would be a good idea.
  2. Set up a time to talk to your child’s teacher. Does she think the results reflect your child’s true ability? Will your child be receiving more help with reading? How much help? Daily, individualized training helps kids make the most progress possible. Kids who get help once or twice a week merely get a band-aid when they need a trip to the E.R.
  3. Have your child read to you every night. So often kids struggle with reading because they don’t get a chance to practice. Pick a book that is easy for your child. Treat it like a music teacher treats a piece of music. That is, have your child read the same book over and over until they sound super smooth and fluent. Don’t move on to the next book until this one is smooth. Piano teachers do this because it helps kids feel competent and make progress. We should be doing the same in helping our kids become stronger readers. This repeated reading technique not only gives your child a sense of confidence, but the daily review they get with the troublesome words they initially encountered will help them learn those words and automate them so these “booger” words no longer cause struggles.
  4. Finally, make sure their teacher rechecks them in about 6-8 weeks. Unfortunately, many schools only check kids three times a year. If a child isn’t benchmarking, we know there’s a problem, so these kids should be tested more often in addition to getting extra support. If your school isn’t providing much or any additional help, it becomes even more critical that you work daily with your child to help them reach grade-level reading.

Reading builds and grows a brain as nothing else can, not only academically, but creatively and emotionally. Do what it takes to ensure your child is reading at grade level or better. Their future success depends on it.

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