Why Is My Child Struggling with Reading and Writing?

August 3, 2020

Why is My Child Struggling with Reading and Writing?

A child struggling with reading and writing can create a lot of stress and worry for parents. There may be a number of reasons why a child has fallen behind their peers in reading and writing. However, when parents notice reading and writing struggles in combination, they also may be concerned about dyslexia.

While it is a parental instinct to feel concerned when a child is showing learning struggles, parents should try to avoid falling down the Google rabbit hole in an attempt to diagnose a child via the internet.  A child struggling with reading and writing may lead to many search results and a lot of information and, perhaps, misinformation, too.

Every child is unique, and while the internet can help a parent find resources, it is not a one-stop shop to find the cause of a reading struggle. A child’s school can help, though, and a pediatrician also can assist parents in finding resources or make referrals to other clinicians and/or physicians (or specialists) to understand academic struggles or to rule out other medical issues (like vision impairments or hearing loss).

A learning disorder might not be diagnosed until other medical concerns are ruled out. This is why parents should not immediately jump to a conclusion based on what they read on the internet.

If a child is diagnosed with a learning disorder like dyslexia, the clinician who made the diagnosis can help parents navigate the educational system and provide advice and resources for helping a child succeed academically.

What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is one of the more well-known reading disorders, and it impacts the parts of the brain that are tasked with processing language. According to the Mayo Clinic, children with dyslexia will have issues sounding out—or ‘decoding’—words while reading; some of the symptoms of dyslexia in grade-school kids include:

  • Reading at a level below grade expectations
  • Issues related to processing
  • Trouble with order and sequencing
  • A struggle to understand how letters and words relate or differ
  • Spelling concerns
  • Reading avoidance

Parents may notice that their child exhibits one or a few of the symptoms of dyslexia. Is this a cause for concern? Only a professional can diagnose dyslexia, and parents who do notice alarming symptoms should either address the issues with the child’s teacher and/or discuss concerns with the child’s pediatrician.

What are other Potential Causes of Reading Struggles?

Some of these symptoms could be related to other struggles. For example, a child who avoids reading simply might not be interested in a particular book or feels that reading is a chore or homework.

Hearing issues also could cause a child to misunderstand text and spell a word incorrectly; a child may not hear a softer sound, which causes them to misidentify a word.

Again, though, parents are a child’s best advocate, and parents know their child better than anyone. If something feels off, or if a gut instinct is saying that something is wrong, call your child’s pediatrician or teacher.

When a learning disorder is identified and diagnosed early, parents can then initiate any further evaluations with the school so the child can, hopefully, begin to receive the help they need. In some cases, however, a child might not qualify for intervention or additional programs through the school. Parents may then opt for private tutoring or online programs to help a child that is struggling with reading and writing.

How Do I Help My Child With Reading?

One of the best ways parents can help a struggling reader is to take the time to read with them. Children could struggle with sounding out words, comprehension or both.

Parents can make flashcards with each letter of the alphabet to help younger readers identify letters and the sounds they make. Flashcards also can include sight words to help children easily and quickly identify these frequently-used words.

When a child struggles to pronounce a word, parents can patiently guide them. Break up the word into separate parts to make it easier.

Those who have difficulty with reading comprehension may benefit from reading the text or stories in chunks. Parents can ask reading comprehension questions after each page or paragraph. Chunking is an easy way to break down larger amounts of text into more digestible parts that may be easier for a child to understand.

Why is My Child Struggling with Reading and Writing?

How Do I Help My Child with Writing?

If writing concerns are related to letter formation, spatial issues, or even spelling, parents can try to help at home.

If the child is having issues with letter-size or spatial issues, buy some lined writing paper at the store; these marked lines will help them visualize their writing. Have children practice writing both upper and lowercase letters, and help them to form the letters in accordance with the lines on the paper.

Some children could have issues with writing because of a poor pencil grip. If you notice your child holding their pencil incorrectly, help them fix their grip. Parents also may bring up the issue to the teacher; an occupational therapist may be available to help with fine motor issues.

Use an Online App or Reading Program

Whatever the cause of the reading struggle, a parent can help a child at home by utilizing a reading program or app like Readability.

Programs should be research-based and provide parents with documented data to show that they will be effective. Programs also should provide engaging content for kids to keep them locked onto lessons and wanting to read. Readability offers:

  • Colorful illustrations
  • Engaging stories and content
  • Appropriately-leveled lessons 
  • A built-in AI tutor that helps with pronunciation struggles and asks questions to gauge understanding

Ready to try Readability? Sign up for a free seven-day trial today!