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How reading is assessed

There are a number of reading tests available to psychologists and teachers. Usually the child will be asked to read aloud from portions of text that have been graded according to difficulty. Easier texts have few, simple words in large print, often with illustrations. The child will progress to more and more difficult levels until it is clear to the tester that he has reached his upper limit.

The tests usually determine the child’s reading speed relative to other children of his age. The number of errors the child makes is also noted to establish reading accuracy, which is also compared with age standards. After each portion of text has been read, the tester may ask the child a number of standard questions about what he has just read to determine the child’s reading comprehension. This, too, can be compared with age standards.

Reading speed, accuracy, and comprehension can all be expressed in age levels. For example, a child of 8 years 4 months may have an accuracy reading age of 6 years 5 months, if he makes the same number of mistakes as the average child aged 6 years 5 months; and a comprehension reading age of 5 years 7 months, if he understands what he has read as well as an average child of 5 years 7 months.

In addition to these scores, the tester takes an interest in the particular types of error that the child makes. He or she may also give the child some specific tests to try to establish the exact nature of the reading problem. For example, he or she may test the child’s visual perception: the brain’s ability to make sense of what the eye sees. The tester may compare the child’s ability to read real and nonsense words to evaluate his phonological skill.

Language and reading are closely related functions. Language difficulties are often present in children with reading difficulties, although they may be subtle and difficult to detect. For this reason, all children with reading difficulty should ideally have their language skills assessed by a speech therapist. Some may benefit from speech therapy.

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