Third Grade Blues: When Your 8 Year Old is Struggling with Reading

February 3, 2020

A mother provides reassurance, as her daughter struggles with reading homework

Third grade is a big year for educational growth, and, for many students, this is the first year that they will complete state-wide assessments (MAP). The need for children to show proficiency in math and language arts may mean that classroom assignments and lessons become more rigorous.

While some eight-year-olds may be in second grade and enjoy a lighter workload, eight-year-olds in third grade may struggle with higher-level concepts and increased academic expectations. Reading third-grade level text fluently is often one of the academic benchmarks, so what do you do when your eight year old is struggling with reading?

1.   Act, but don’t overreact!

As a parent, it’s always hard to watch a child struggle academically. However, you need to assess the needs of your child. Is s/he only lagging behind a little bit…or are there noticeable and significant struggles?

Reading test scores may be a great indicator of ability, too. Most schools send reading scores home to parents to help them understand their child’s reading level and fluency. Some scores use a test known as STAR, which provides a Lexile level related to your child’s reading ability. 

These tests may show that the child is slightly behind in grade level, or they could indicate a bigger problem. Review any scores your school has sent home with your child. If you haven’t seen any scores come home, contact your child’s teacher about your concerns.

2.   Seek out solutions

The relationship between the school and parents should be a partnership. Your child’s school cannot be the only source of help; parents have to be involved, too. This means that when a child leaves school for the day, the role of educator now belongs to the parent. Ultimately, a child’s academic success hinges on both the school and the parent/guardian.

That being said, parents absolutely should utilize teachers as a resource to work through solutions to address a child’s learning concerns or struggles. Teachers may be able to advise parents on available programs or intervention methods that may be used to help a struggling reader.

Teachers often are the first point of contact about testing a child for special education needs. If you feel your child is too far behind, email or call your child’s teacher to set up a conference to discuss options for your child.

A female tutor helps a young boy with homework

3.   Use online reading programs

Online reading programs adapt to a child’s needs, and the programs are designed to move at a child’s unique pace. Readability offers an AI virtual tutor that provides auditory feedback while kids read; the tutor gently corrects mispronunciations and helps children if they stumble during a story. Readability’s tutor also gives positive feedback so kids feel encouraged during the reading journey.  Parents can track their child’s progress and set reading goals.

A mom and her son meet with his teacher during parent-teacher conferences

When a child is struggling to read, parents have options and resources. Unfortunately, when parents realize that a child is struggling, they may not always know quite how to handle the situation. Instead of taking steps to address the concern, some parents may react…or overreact when they reach out to schools. No one can or should tell a parent how best to handle a child’s struggles in school. Yet, there are surefire ways to drive a wedge between the parent and the school.  

In meetings don’t display overt anger…or tears. If a parent is in a meeting or conference with a teacher discussing student struggles, emotions may run high. Try not to let emotions drive the meeting, though. Pretend the meeting with teachers/administrators is a business meeting and act accordingly. Be cordial, be kind, be professional. You can cry in the car…and, sometimes, you might need to cry in the car (and that’s ok). If you think you’re going to cry in a meeting, though, the site “A Day in Our Shoes” has tips on how to control the trickle down of tears.

Parents also shouldn’t be accusatory or inflammatory. Always speak to teachers/administrators how you want them to speak to you. Don’t insult or belittle an educator. Try to put yourself in their shoes. And, while meetings can be long and emotional, don’t yell. Raising your voice will only break down communication.

If your eight-year old is struggling with reading, reach out to your child’s teacher and school to open up a dialogue about concerns and possible solutions. If you feel that there aren’t any classroom intervention options, an online reading program like Readability may be a great option. Try Readability for free for a week and see if the program is a fit for your child.