At age 8, a child might be in second or third grade. At these grade levels, children might transition from reading more basic short stories to enjoying longer books and even perhaps chapter books.
Not all children are ready to move on from smaller and more basic books, though. If children are struggling to read fluently in lower grades, they might continue to struggle later. For this reason, it’s important for parents to help struggling readers meet grade-level benchmarks. What is the best way to help 8 year-olds read better?
- Work on sounds and blends
- Practice sight words
- Help children chunk the text
- Teach re-reading
- Add visual prompts
- Use a reading program or app
Go Back to Basics: Work on Sounds and Blends
Some children might still be struggling with the more basic fundamentals of reading. An eight-year-old might still have difficulty remembering what sound a letter makes in a specific word. Unfortunately, there are many rules in reading that determine a letter’s sound; all these rules can become confusing.
Children might have the basic sounds of letters mastered. However, they might struggle with the sounds these letters make when placed together; for example, they might not remember that ‘night’ makes the ‘ite’ sound.
There’s also the common rule of “I before e except when it comes after c or when sounding like ‘ay’ as in neighbor and weight.” Teach children little sayings like the ‘I before e’ rule to help children remember the sometimes mixed-up rules of decoding.
Parents also might need to go back and practice with children. Read with them and help them with their decoding. Use flash cards to memorize and practice sound blends or confusing sounds.
Practice Sight Words Regularly
Children are expected to memorize a list of sight words each year in lower elementary grades. These lists typically come from the Dolch List of Sight Words.
Children need to memorize these lists so they can easily identify these common words. Sight word mastery can help some parts of reading become engrained and automatic; when children recognize a word from memory they don’t have to sound it out to decode it.
Practice sight words regularly until children demonstrate mastery and proficiency. Parents can make flash cards of sight words and skill and drill the words daily.
However, not all children learn best with flash cards. Parents also can create games to help children master their sight word lists. For example, make two cards of each sight word and play Sight Word Match. Just shuffle the deck and place them face down.
Parents also could create Sight Word Go Fish. Make four cards of each sight word, shuffle the deck and play according to the standard Go Fish rules.
There also are apps via Google Play and the App Store that parents can download to help their children gain mastery of sight words. These apps often include game-based lesson designs or flash cards. Apps might be free, but some might offer in-app purchases. Parents who don’t want their children to purchase any items in a game might choose to disable the in-app purchase option on their device.
Help Children Chunk the Text
Some children who struggle with reading might become overwhelmed by big blocks of text. To ensure that text is more digestible and easy to read at once, parents can teach children to chunk the text.
Use an index card to cover a portion of the page leaving only a paragraph or a few sentences visible. This helps children tackle small amounts of information at once. Not only could it help them think about a small amount of information to better comprehend what’s going on in the book, but chunking also ensures that children only focus on working to decode small amounts of information (to avoid them feeling overwhelmed).
Sometimes children might forget what they read. They also could be distracted while reading and not fully comprehend the information.
Teach children to go back and re-read if they don’t understand something. This can be a valuable reading technique that aids comprehension in later grades. Some readers always need to go back and re-read earlier sections of books; distractions can happen to proficient readers and struggling readers. Re-reading helps aid comprehension and can help children spot details they might have missed, too.
Add Visual Prompts
For children who struggle with comprehension, offer visual prompts to ensure that they know what information they need to think about while reading. Create reading comprehension bookmarks that offer prompts or spaces where children can write details about the book.
For 8-year-olds, reading comprehension bookmarks might just include the typical w/h questions of comprehension: who, what, where, when, why and how. However, bookmarks also could include prompts related to plot or even character analysis.
Graphic organizers also could be a helpful resource for children who struggle with comprehension. These resources are a worksheet that helps children map out elements of a story; graphic organizers could focus on literary themes, plot, characters, etc. Parents can find free graphic organizer worksheets via Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Use a Reading Program or App
Children who struggle with reading might need more enrichment and assistance than parents are able to provide. Some parents might not know how to help their child gain the skills they need to become proficient readers.
While tutoring could be an option, a private reading tutor could be expensive. Not all parents have the budget to afford weekly tutoring sessions for their child.
To help children with reading at home, parents could use a reading tutoring app or program like Readability. These programs are designed to help children who struggle with decoding, comprehension or all aspects of reading.
Readability can be used from preschool through sixth grade. The program is designed with a built-in AI reading tutor that guides the lessons. The tutor is programmed with voice recognition software and learns each child’s voice as they read books in the program aloud.
The reading tutor can hear when a child mispronounces a word or is struggling to decode a word. When the tutor identifies these struggles, it will provide help and encouragement.
After a child finishes reading a book in Readability, the tutor also asks the child questions about the story. If the child answers a question incorrectly, the tutor shows them the section from the story that has clues about the answer and the child can have another opportunity to answer the question.
In this way, Readability helps children understand the importance of re-reading to gain understanding. Children also can re-read any book in their library.
Some children could struggle with vocabulary as well as with decoding/pronunciation. Readability makes it easy for children to find out the meaning of any word they find in a story. Children can tap any word to hear its definition or hear the word used in a sentence. In addition, every story has a list of vocabulary words to ensure that children are always introduced to new words.
Readability requires a monthly subscription. However, parents can explore the program at no cost by signing up for a free seven-day trial period. During this time, children have access to all the stories and features of the program. Parents can use this time to find out how the program can enhance their child’s reading journey and help them gain confidence and proficiency, too.