Reading skills grow with age. However, millions of children struggle with reading. Parents might realize very early in elementary school that their child is not mastering the literacy skills needed to move to another level.
While some children’s struggles are identified early, others might not be far enough behind their peers to be visible to educators. Some children, too, just might be a little behind and their struggles might not stick out as problematic. Yet, as reading builds and as deficits widen, those early struggles could turn into big struggles. Here’s how to help your child read better to ensure that even minor reading deficits can be addressed so that a child doesn’t fall far behind expected grade-level benchmarks.
Identifying Areas of Struggle
In order to properly help their child, parents will need to identify their child’s specific reading struggles. There are multiple components of literacy, and there also are many different grade-level benchmarks children may be expected to reach each year.
Common early reading struggles might include:
- Letter identification
- Sight word mastery
- Reading fluency (or speed)
Knowing the alphabet is crucial to learning to read. How can we decode if we don’t know the code? Children may struggle with identifying uppercase and lowercase letters.
Sight Word Mastery
In early grade levels (kindergarten through perhaps second grade), children will be expected to learn and master a list of sight words. These are easy words that children should be able to identify and read on sight. Colors and numbers are on the list, but so are many other words.
The Dolch list of sight words is commonly used; there are 220 words in total. These words are typically divided up among multiple grades, so children are not expected to memorize them all in one year.
This is the skill of sounding out words to gain understanding. Children may break up words into parts then blend them together. Some children have a difficult time remembering sounds or rules guiding those sounds (e.g. “ei” sounds like “a” in some words).
Reading fluency is typically measured in words read per minute. Fluency shows that a child can read a passage accurately and at a proper speed. Children who struggle with fluency may stumble on words and take longer to read a passage. Reading fluency struggles may be caused by a decoding struggle, too.
The goal of reading is to eventually read to further grow knowledge and facilitate understanding. For this reason, children need to understand what they read. Early comprehension may focus on the w/h questions: who, what, where, when, why and how. In upper elementary grades, children may be expected to make predictions about what will happen next. They also will need to make inferences and understand that stories often require readers to explore beyond just the words on the page. Making inferences is often equated to “reading between the lines.”
How a Teacher Can Help When a Child Struggles with Reading
When a parent has identified their child’s literacy struggle, they can begin to explore ways to help them. One of the first steps for parents might be to reach out to the child’s teacher so that they can get a precise understanding about their child’s current reading level and reading abilities.
Parents may ask teachers:
- Their child’s reading level
- The expected reading level
- The benchmark reading level for the end-of-the-year
- Any noticeable classroom struggles
Parents may know that their child is struggling with fluency or comprehension, but it also may be helpful to understand the child’s current reading level and how that level compares to grade-level expectations. In addition, parents can ask teachers about the end-of-year reading level expectation.
Typically, teachers will know the targeted reading level for children throughout the year. There also is an expected reading level benchmark for the end of the year. Meeting this benchmark might be crucial in preparation for the next grade level.
To meet this benchmark, though, children may need to progress through other levels during the year. Reading builds, and if a child is stuck on one level they might miss the end-of-year benchmark.
What parents see at home when a child is reading might or might not match what a teacher notices in the classroom. Reaching out to a teacher can help parents better understand if there are other issues of struggle. Does the child not want to read aloud? Does the teacher notice the child mixing up sounds and letters? Teachers may be able to share information that can help guide parents to find the most appropriate and beneficial resources for their child.
How to Help at Home
Sometimes children are far behind their peers and can qualify for additional reading intervention at school. Some children may have reading difficulties that aren’t severe enough to qualify for additional help.
When parents know the reading area in which their child struggles, though, they can begin to find resources to help their child grow their reading skills at home. Not every child will benefit from the same programs, app or specific reading intervention method. Here is a list of ways parents could help at home based on their child’s type of reading struggle:
- Use flashcards to help children learn to memorize and recognize letters.
- Download apps that offer alphabet games that are focused on identification.
- Play letter match. Parents will need to make 52 cards total (two for each letter—uppercase and lowercase). Mix up the cards and find the matches.
- Read books that focus on letters and letter identification.
- Have a letter scavenger hunt on a rainy day. Children will need to find all the letters.
Sight Word Identification
- Flashcards are a great way to help children master their list.
- Download apps focused on sight words. Some offer fun sight word games, and they also may feature a flash card option, too.
- Go on a sight word scavenger hunt. Children can take their list to the store or on errands with their parents and scratch off each word when they find it.
- Play sight word match games. Create two cards for each sight word and match them up!
- Practice sounding out words with children.
- Review different letters and the sounds they make.
- Children also can listen to books as they follow along to help better understand pronunciation.
- Hold reading races. Have a child read a passage for one minute. See if they can read the full passage without error.
- Practice reading aloud. When reading with a child, encourage them to read pages out loud. Parents and children can take turns reading.
- Ask children questions when reading to them. Focus on the w/h questions.
- Use graphic organizers to help children make sense of information as they read.
- Make comprehension bookmarks that offer prompts for children to think about as they read.
- Re-read a passage to ensure understanding.
- Teach children to chunk the text. This involves breaking up stories into shorter groups of text. Children can chunk by paragraph or in a way that is most beneficial to them. This strategy could help in other subjects, too.
Use a Reading App
A reading program like Readability can help children gain proficiency in reading fluency and comprehension. The app can be used from preschool through fifth grade.
Readability includes a built-in AI tutor with voice-recognition software. The tutor learns a child’s voice, and when they stumble or struggle, the tutor helps them. At the end of each story, the tutor also asks children questions to test comprehension.
Readability encourages story exploration. Children can click on any word that they don’t know, and Readability will show them the definition. Children also can see the word used in a sentence. Every word a child explores is added to their word bank, and they can review words at any time to facilitate mastery.
Not every program is the best fit for every child, and Readability encourages parents to explore the program through a free seven-day trial. Children will have access to all the features and can explore stories and use the AI tutor.
Interested in using a reading program to help a struggling reader? Sign up for a free trial today!