How to Help a Child Struggling With Reading

February 5, 2020

A young girl struggles with her reading homework

Parents may not always realize that their child is struggling with reading until the problem becomes more pronounced. Maybe the child seems disinterested in practicing sight words or avoids reading at night. Eventually, parents may receive notes from the teacher or may be informed during conferences that the school is concerned that the child is reading below grade level.

Coming to terms with the fact that a child is struggling academically can be stressful, worrisome and scary for parents. However, understanding the problem means you can take action to help alleviate those struggles. Here’s how to help a child struggling with reading.

How can I improve my child’s reading skills?

The best way to improve your child’s reading is to encourage them to read. Practice makes perfect, or, at least, practice can lead to improvement.

Children should read 20 minutes each night. However, if your child struggles to sound out words or identify sight words, help them during that precious time. 

Read together with your child. Embrace a reading routine that gets them excited, too.

A reading routine with your child may include:

  • A cozy, quiet setting (the bedroom or living room)
  • Unique elements (build a reading fort!)
  • Quick review sessions (do a quick ‘sight words flashcard’ session before the story)
  • A sight word scavenger hunt (encourage kids to look for sight words in your story)

Always let your child pick out books of interest. Ideally, these should be at your child’s reading level. However, if you are reading to your child, you can choose books at a higher level. Some parents may incorporate snacks into the reading routine, too. Although, this could get messy or become a distraction. Eat first, then read!

A mom reads with her daughter before bedtime

How do I help my child struggling with reading comprehension?

While a child may be able to easily identify words and read fluently, comprehension may be a big concern. Just because a child can read the text, doesn’t mean they understand what they are reading. If comprehension is your child’s biggest struggle, you can help them at home by:

  • Asking questions during the story
  • Utilizing reading software to gauge understanding
  • Encouraging them to read at their Lexile level
  • Talking about what happens next, work on making predictions

Comprehension issues can be addressed while reading together. When a child fails to understand the context of the story, they may be unable to answer many questions related to the text at the end of the book. Instead, ask questions during the story. If you’re reading a chapter book, ask about what happened or talk about a character. You may even want to talk about the plot after a few pages.

Help older children learn to make predictions. Ask them what they think will happen next? Talk about a character’s feelings or intentions and how that relates to the story and plot. Inferring feelings, emotions and intentions may be difficult for some children.

Younger children also may struggle with comprehension. For shorter books, use illustrations to help children understand and follow the story plot. Ask the “w” questions: who, what, when, where and why.  Talk about how a character feels, too.

How can we help struggling readers?

Parents can only do so much at home for their child. If the child is lagging far behind in literacy, parents may request intervention from the school. However, not all children will qualify for specialized reading help in the classroom.

If you’re concerned that your child is falling too far behind, request a meeting with your child’s teacher. Often, teachers have already identified a concern and are monitoring it. However, this would be the most appropriate time to discuss potential intervention options or request additional testing.  

How much a child struggles with phonics and/or comprehension may affect the level that a parent intervenes or pursues more intense reading enrichment programs. For children who need more help, but fail to qualify for help through the school, parents can utilize reading software like Readability, which grows with the child and offers an integrated AI tutor to guide lessons and gently correct mistakes.

How to help a child struggling with reading depends on the needs of the child. Some children are only a little behind their peers, and parents may be able to devote extra time at home to help them catch up. Other children, though, lag behind by multiple grade levels. These kids may need additional intervention in the classroom. Parents also can use reading software like Readability to help provide virtual reading tutoring at home.

The program offers appropriate leveled texts that grow with a child’s ability; stories are imaginative and colorfully illustrated to add to the immersive experience. The AI tutor is programmed to recognize your child’s voice and provide gentle prompts when a child struggles with pronunciation. Want to know if Readability is right for your child? Try it for free today.