Why doesn’t my child like to read and write?

You have been bringing your child to the library since they were young. You have tried filling your house with books. You have tried enrolling your child in reading and/or phonics lessons. Despite these efforts, you notice that your child struggles to read and spell as well as peers of the same age. To top it off, your child tells you that he/she dislikes reading and writing. Does this situation sound familiar?

If your child faces persistent difficulties with reading age-appropriate materials and spelling/writing despite the support provided, such as phonics and other literacy intervention, your child may have Dyslexia. Dyslexia, a term coined 130 years ago by Rudolf Berlin, a German ophthalmologist and professor1, comes from the Greek words “dys” which means “difficulty”, and “lexia” which means “words”. Specifically, Dyslexia is a type of specific learning difficulty that primarily affects fluent and accurate word reading and spelling2. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition (DSM-5), Dyslexia is also known as a Specific Learning Disorder with impairment in reading3. Individuals with Dyslexia may also show difficulties in phonological awareness and processing, fluency in retrieving words from memory, as well as working memory and processing speed.

As children progress through the school grades, you may notice different signs of Dyslexia. Some organisations such as the Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS) and the International Dyslexia Association also provide checklists and self-assessment tools to help you estimate your child’s risk of having dyslexia (refer to links below4,5). Some signs of Dyslexia which you may notice in your child include:

Early Literacy Skills

  • Struggles in learning the alphabet, including both upper and lowercase letters
  • Confusion between letters, especially those which look similar (e.g., b and d) or sound similar (e.g., p and v)
  • Difficulty in learning letter sounds
  • Confusion between letter names and letter sounds
  • Difficulty with mastering phonics skills, such as rhymes and sound blending


  • Struggles to recognise sight words/high frequency words despite teaching
  • Confusion between similar-looking words (e.g., “where”, “what”)
  • Dysfluent and/or effortful reading of sentences and passages; may skip, add, or omit words within sentences/passages
  • Omitting, adding, or changing word endings (e.g., “-s”, “ing”)

Spelling & Writing

  • Unable to grasp writing conventions, including use of capital letters, word spacing, and punctuation
  • Letter reversals (*may be seen in younger children as they familiarise themselves with the alphabet)
  • Struggles to copy accurately
  • Poor spelling, which can include missing letters or switching sequence of letters in words
  • Spelling the same word differently in the same piece of writing
  • Disorganised ideas in compositions
  • Able to verbalise ideas but cannot pen them down clearly


  • Adverse towards tasks which involve reading, spelling, and writing
  • Disorganised with personal belongings, loses track of time and activities
  • Struggles to follow instructions
  • Poor attention during learning activities

Given that Dyslexia affects reading, spelling and writing, you may also find your child struggling with other subjects such as Mathematics and Science when they are required to read and write. Moreover, many children with dyslexia struggle to learn a second language as they are already facing difficulties with one language. For some children, they may show confusion across languages, such as between English phonics and Chinese Hanyu Pinyin, or learning the spelling of the same words across alphabetic languages (e.g, “Police” in English versus “Polis” in Malay).

Considering the importance of literacy skills in learning as well as day-to-day living, it is important to identify if our children has Dyslexia or other areas of needs which may impede their acquisition of literacy skills. The SpLD Assessment Services team of psychologists at the DAS provides psycho-educational assessments to help parents and teachers better understand the needs of learners who are suspected to have Dyslexia.

Besides Dyslexia, DAS psychologists also conducts assessment as an investigation of other developmental and learning differences such as Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder and Dyscalculia (difficulty with Mathematics). Based on the assessment findings, recommendations are made to support children in their learning and development. To find out more about the DAS and how the organization can support your child’s needs, please visit www.DAS.org.sg.

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