Is my child ready to learn first writing and first reading with fluency?

The following list aims to identify children who may have reading difficulties because of possible problems in their oral language and language development. It can be completed by parents and teachers. It is aimed at children who are completing kindergarten or starting primary school. The list should be completed with great care. If the child is lagging behind to a large extent, an assessment by a speech and language therapist is necessary.


Phonetics awareness

  • does not understand the use of rhymes
  • does not realise that words can start from the same sound
  • has difficulty counting the syllables in a word he hears
  • has difficulty following the rhythm of a song by clapping
  • encounters difficulty in matching a sound with its corresponding graph


Vocabulary Recall

  • has difficulty recalling a specific word (e.g. says goat instead of sheep or says this animal has wool)
  • does not easily remember the names of his classmates
  • his speech is characterised by hesitation, pauses & interjections (e.g. uh, mmm)
  • often uses generalised words & phrases (e.g. thing, this, that, that, what's it called)
  • has difficulty remembering sequences (alphabet, days of the week)


Auditory Memory

  • has difficulty remembering commands and instructions
  • has difficulty learning the names of people or places
  • has trouble remembering words in songs or poems
  • has difficulty learning a foreign language



  • has difficulty pronouncing everyday words that contain difficult phoneme combinations
  • mishears and subsequently reproduces the wrong words or names
  • confuses words that contain similar sounds (e.g. mina - nina)
  • confuses words containing common syllables (e.g. watering can, lamp)
  • often makes flubs
  • has difficulty with tongue twisters



  • follows only part of a complex command or instruction
  • requires multiple repetitions of instructions or commands, but without significantly improving understanding
  • tries to understand what was said in context
  • has difficulty understanding questions
  • fails to understand age-appropriate stories
  • has difficulty making assumptions, drawing conclusions and predicting the outcome
  • has difficulty in understanding spatial concepts such as right - left, front - back


Expressive Speech

  • uses short sentences
  • makes grammatical errors
  • has a poor vocabulary
  • has difficulty giving instructions or explanations
  • relates stories or events without temporal & conceptual sequence
  • may have a lot to say, but ultimately provides little relevant information
  • finds it difficult to maintain the flow of the dialogue, to change the order, to keep the subject matter


Other important factors

  • has a previous history of speech problems (perception and/or expression)
  • there is a family history of a relative with speech or learning difficulties
  • lives in an environment with poor linguistic stimuli
  • not particularly interested in books & activities related to reading
  • does not willingly participate in symbolic play
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