My son can read but cannot spell

Published: Monday | August 17, 2009

Q. My nine-year-old son can read very well and gets high marks for his reading. When I ask him to spell the words, though, he is unable to spell most of them, which worries me a lot. Can you please advise me on where I can go to get some help for him? I have been trying ever since I realised he has this. I need to have this problem dealt with soon because he will be going into grade five in September. I live in the Spanish Town area.

A. The ability to be able to spell is very important. I am going to recommend that you first ask if there is a reading specialist at his school and you can ask that specialist for help. Also, your child's teachers may know of other teachers or persons who offer extra lessons in your community who may be able to help your child specifically with spelling. You can also help by finding interesting reading material for him that have comprehension activities. This has been found to be very helpful. Use games and charts with words and make spelling activities fun. If, after all of this, you see where he is still not doing well, you can get him tested at the Mico Care Centre or the Jamaica Association for Children with Learning Disabilities. They will provide you with educational support services.

Q. My seven-year-old does everything his 12-year-old brother does. The good and the bad. How can I guide my seven-year-old to be his own person?

A. Older children will always be role models of good and bad behaviour. Since both boys interact a lot, the seven-year-old will be influenced by his older brother. This will be especially so if his brother also serves as his protector. Encourage and guide your 12-year-old to be responsible and positive. His brother is going to imitate him, so your job as the parent will be to ensure that many positive behaviours are shown by the older brother. Please ensure that you do not tell your 12-year-old that you want him to behave so that his little brother will behave too. Your 12-year-old must be taught to behave properly so he can learn good social skills for himself. It is the parent's job to teach both children to behave.

Q. Are preschools or what we call basic schools really necessary? I am considering whether I should send my three-year-old to one in September.

A. Basic schools or preschools prepare children for grade one. The activities of these schools focus on thinking, social and emotional skills development. Attendance is not for the entire day and the children learn to count and learn the basic skills of reading among other activities in creative and fun-oriented environments. If you choose to send your child to school, be an active part of the Parent-Teacher Association and help your child by going over skills and activities learned each day. Remember to make your child's learning fun.

A reader sent the following feedback to one of the questions raised in last week's column:

Counting advises

Dear Dr Brown-Earle,

I read the advice you gave a mother who has a six-year-old child who can count to 100, understands 'less than' activities but does not understand 'more than' activities.

This child is a very bright six-year-old. Therefore, I would suggest showing him the number line system (horizontal line) to help him understand the 'more than' activities. I am going to assume that this child is in first grade. Therefore, introducing him to this system is reasonable. If the school system has not already introduced it to him in mathematics, it will.

The fact that the child likes counting, the number line is a very comfortable place to start showing him 'more than' activities. This way it will help him conceptualise and visualise 'more than'. Alternatively, if the parent cannot help, using the number line system, then the child should see a first- grade mathematics teacher.

The number line system is a straight horizontal line. I would ask the child to draw this line. Then I would ask the child to draw about 12 evenly spaced vertical lines on the horizontal line, and then number the vertical lines - start counting from the left with zero and go in the right direction until he gets to 12. I would tell the child to imagine the 12 are 12 activities I asked him to do. In addition, he can imagine I asked him to buy ice cream. I believe this is a fun exercise since the child likes counting and I believe he likes ice cream.

Then I would ask him to pick a number between 0 and 12. If he picks nine, then I would say you have done five more activities than four. Or, you could say, suppose you have a brother whose name is John and I gave him $20 and I gave you (child) $25. Which of you have more money? Alternatively, you can use dominoes to show the child 'more than' activities if the he likes dominoes.

A reader

Orlean Brown Earle, PhD, is a child psychologist and family therapist. Dr Brown Earle works with children with learning and behaviour problems throughout the island and in the Caribbean. Email questions to or send to Ask the Doc, c/o The Gleaner Company, 7 North Street, Kingston.