Developing Reading Skills and New NH Legislation

By Linda Martin, M.Ed., CAGS, AOGPE

As the newest member of the team at the Portsmouth Neuropsychology Center (PNC), it is my pleasure to introduce myself.  I began my teaching career over thirty years ago with a keen interest in reading, literacy, and study skills. Now I find myself in the position of Organizational Coach and Reading Tutor for PNC. I am excited to apply my years of classroom teaching and administration experience to this current position. I have been trained to work with students who struggle both with reading and organizational skills (also known as executive functioning skills). I look forward to meeting those visiting our office and expanding our reach into the local community to bring information and resources that will help students, parents, teachers and families.

Reading Development in Children

Literacy development occurs in specific stages for youths. General highlights of such stages are provided below.

Babies and Toddlers: Known as the “Pre-reading Stage,” this is an exciting time for parents as they watch their child learn and explore everything for the first time. From the age of six months on, children love to be read to by an adult. As they grow, they learn important lessons about text like its connection to illustration, the letters of the alphabet, and the relationship between stories and their world. Time spent by caring adults reading to very young children helps to build strong foundations in their social and emotional growth as well.

Kindergarteners and First Graders: Although we should always remember that children develop and learn on different time tables, some warning signs at this level may include the following:

  • Problems with speech or pronunciation of new words
  • Difficulty following multi-task directions
  • Trouble learning the alphabet or simple rhyming words
  • Having a hard time staying focused on literacy tasks

While reading intervention is helpful at any age, research suggests that the earlier evidence-based reading intervention starts, the better the long-term outcomes across academic and social-emotional functioning.  It is critical for struggling readers to be identified during this time period and appropriate intervention provided.

Grades 2 and 3:  As they begin to grasp new ideas, seven and eight-year-olds are more influenced by their classmates and can use details to support their feelings, tell stories and summarize events.  Red flags of potential reading concerns include:

  • Recognizing common sight words
  • Decoding one syllable words
  • Recalling the correct sounds for letters and letter patterns
  • Recognizing visually similar letters or numerals
  • Reading fluency
  • Applying spelling rules accurately

Grades 4 and 5:  A major transition occurs by fourth grade, when children move from learning to read to reading to learn.  As a result, improved reading skills are expected and can only create more frustration for struggling readers as the gap widens between themselves and their peers who read well.  This can make a student feel self-conscious and potentially affect relationships with others in their class.

Middle School:  With the approach of middle school, most students find themselves changing classes for different subjects and attending with an increasingly diverse group of students.  A struggling reader can become withdrawn and moody and may be reluctant to attend school.  Parents will need patience and be available for reassurance and encouragement.  When children go to school, they are exposed to a whole new world of relationships and expectations. Most of the time this can provide the opportunity for positive interaction between parent and child, like having them talk about their new friends or what the class learned in school today, but what if you notice signs that your child is struggling? First, don’t panic! Every child finds challenges while learning and growing, it’s part of the normal growing process. However, evidence points to a connection between school success and healthy, well-adjusted teens. It is no secret that success in school is associated with strong reading skills.

New Legislation in New Hampshire Aimed at Supporting Struggling Readers

Statistically, as many as ten to twenty percent of students (at every grade level) may struggle with reading. Many of these individuals may have learning challenges such as dyslexia or other language-based difficulties. Early intervention is key to improving such skills, which is why New Hampshire has recently enacted new legislation which applies to all public schools in the state. The following is taken from the NH Department of Education web site:

The New Hampshire Department of Education recognizes the importance of fostering literacy development in the early grade levels for all children. RSA 200:58 and RSA 200:59 are intended to focus on children who struggle learning to read based upon potential indicators of dyslexia and other related disorders. The RSAs define dyslexia, require public schools to screen for potential indicators of dyslexia no later than November 30, 2017 in kindergarten or first grade, and require school districts to provide evidenced-based, intervention strategies to address the child’s individual needs beginning no later than January 1, 2018.


As a reading educator, I am proud of the work that has been done by the dedicated team of clinicians, teachers, parents, and concerned legislators looking to provide more support to children and families that resulted in this change.  At the same time, it is important to highlight that schools may not have sufficient resources in place currently to address such needs. Research studies show that the most effective approach to reading intervention is multi-sensory, structured, sequential, and individualized, which matches my training in the Orton-Gillingham approach.  If you are concerned about your child’s reading progress, please call me at the Portsmouth Neuropsychology Center at 603-433-0800 to develop a plan for reading instruction and help maximize your child’s academic and social-emotional success.


Linda Martin’s, M.Ed., CAGS, AOGPE Bio

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