One of the best things you can do for your child is to start educating yourself in what your child needs to be successful at school.

Step 1

These three files will start you on your journey. 

Read What is Dyslexia? and get an understanding of what dyslexia is for your child. 

Read Why can’t my child read?

Read What is Structured Literacy? and What Does Structured Literacy Look Like In Intervention? 

Listen to these two podcasts (Hard Words and At a Loss for Words) by Emily Hanford. Emily is an education journalist and wanted to find out why so many children in the US can’t read. Although this is an US podcast the story is exactly the same in New Zealand. In fact, the story is the same worldwide. 

Step 2

Gather information to help you advocate for the right intervention for your child. Here are some questions to start thinking about as you begin.  

  • What approach is the school using to teach your child to read, write and spell? Is it Balanced Literacy or Structured Literacy? Is it working? 
  • Does your child know all the first 26 sounds of the alphabet and can they write the letters when they hear the sounds?
  • Has anyone assessed your child’s phonological awareness?
  • What spelling patterns can your child read when they read words?
  • What spelling patterns can your child spell when they write?
  • Has your child been doing any writing at school or are the school books coming back empty?
  • Does your child know how to write a paragraph, or understand sentence structure? 

You can use the free parent friendly assessments that we have listed on the website under Free Resources to assess sounds, letters, reading and spelling at a basic level.  

Other things to consider when you start gathering information about how well your child is learning at school. 

Is there any difficulty with math?

  • Does your child know their basic math facts ten (number bonds)?
  • Can you child recognise numbers (subitizing) i.e. see 7 things as 7 or 4 dots are 4 
  • Do they understand place value?
  • Do they mix 14 and 41 up? (place value confusion)
  • Do they know their times tables?
  • Can they do multiplication and division?
  • Do they understand fractions?

Are there any language difficulties making learning even harder?  

  • Do you know what the delays are? 
  • Can they comprehend a full children’s story book or chapter in a novel?  
  • Can they retell the story back in the correct sequence? First, second, third last or first, then, after, or at the end?
  • Do they know the what, where, when, how and why in the story?
  • Can they tell you what might happen next?
  • Do they understand basic language concepts?
  • Examples to consider
    • Under – Over
    • Before – After
    • Altogether
    • In between
    • Above – Below
    • Less- Unless
    • More
    • Big, bigger and biggest
    • Long, longer and longest
  • Do they have a good understanding of vocabulary in speech and writing?
  • Do they say words like stuff and things when describing something? Instead of saying saying, “I want the book from the shelf” they may say, “I want the thing on the shelf”

Are there any behaviour issues? 

  • Does the school consider the learning disability when allocating your child work? If no, is this a factor in the behaviour?
  • Is the anxiety and behaviour coming out because the underlying issue that they can’t read is not being addressed and the feeling of failure is the main issue? Behaviour strategies do not teach reading, they only manage situations in class. It does not solve the issue that your child can’t read. 
  • What approach did the school use to address anxiety and behaviour if any? Mindfulness, sensory box, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) or Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA)?
  • Does the school address the needs of your child if they also have Autism and ADHD? 

Once you have gathered your information you will have a much clearer picture of what your child needs. You will have a starting point for you to advocate at school, or to support them at home. 

Step 3

Start reading through the rest of the information on the website. 

Step 4

The last step is something to take your time with. We have listed a few to get you started, but you will find a large collection of podcasts, articles, webinars, websites and books we recommend when you’re ready. 


Helpful Websites


This document was created by Sharon Scurr, founder of the deb in December 2021