According to new research, around one in three Australian children grow up in families in adversity and more than half of them lack the skills they need to learn to read. This concerns households where parents are unemployed, in financial stress, or experience poor physical or mental health. The study found that one in four disadvantaged kids had language difficulties while half of them had pre-reading difficulties.

Language learning struggles mean having a limited vocabulary, being unable to build sentences, or to understand what is being said. Pre-reading struggles are, in particular, the inability to recognize alphabet letters or to identify sounds that make up words. Learning to read is one of the most fundamental skills young students need today and deficiencies in this domain can seriously affect their subsequent academic performance.

A major pre-reading weakness is the difficulty to grasp the essential building blocks for learning to read. By the age of five, for example, most kids should be able to name at least ten letters and identify the corresponding first sounds in simple words such as "b" for "ball". Children who have not yet developed this basic competency when they start school are likely to need additional support in their learning to read.

Most early language and speech abilities develop through interactions between children and their parents, and can be much more problematic for families in adversity and lacking social support. They often benefit from fewer resources, for instance, books and time to devote to their kids' early learning (numeracy and literacy being among the most important). A lot of research has shown that early reading difficulties tend to continue throughout the early years, the whole school curriculum, and far beyond. Most of the time for life.

Picture: Two Children Reading, by Théophile Emmanuel Duverger (Wikimedia, w/Effects)