A child who is struggling with reading certainly isn’t the only one with this problem in school. In fact, millions of children may have difficulties with reading. Parents may look for ways on how to help their child. While there are many different strategies to help a child who struggles with reading, not every strategy might work for each child.
Parents might be Googling ferociously to find the best solution. Typing in “how to help child with reading difficulties” might result in many different resources that give different tips and ideas for parents.
Depending on the source, there could be expert advice—tips backed by research—or just a few novice tips. Parents may literally feel like they are drowning in advice. What’s best for the child? Do skill and drill techniques work for reading? Does my child have a learning disorder?
Really, the search can seem exhausting. Especially when all parents want is a cut and dry answer on how to help their child. But each child is different. And while some children might have an underlying medical condition and/or learning disorder that is affecting their reading journey, others might not have a diagnosis for why they struggle.
Helping a child read when they are having difficulty may be a trial and error situation. That is, parents may try out different strategies to find out what works for their child. While there isn’t one single or simple tip or trick that may work for everyone, here is a list of options for parents needing to help a struggling reader:
Talk to the School
In the Readability blog, it’s often noted that parents might want to reach out to the school for guidance when their child is struggling. The reason for this is that the school—more specifically the child’s teacher—might be able to provide more insight about a child’s struggle.
Teachers may note that a child is reading below grade level. They may notice that the child struggles with sounding out words or comprehending the story. Or teachers may tell parents that their child is struggling with all aspects of literacy.
Teachers may provide parents with ways to help their child. Perhaps teachers could share links to programs that parents can use at home. Some schools let children access school programs at home, but others may not be able to allow access.
Sometimes parents could assume their child is struggling when they aren’t even behind. Parents could compare a child to an older sibling who was a precocious reader. Reading benchmarks in the parent’s mind could be skewed to a more advanced reading ability.
Teachers also could refer a child for a more thorough reading evaluation or other academic assessments. These could be part of a process to qualify for an IEP.
Reach out to the Pediatrician
If the child’s teacher doesn’t provide much help related to a child’s struggle, parents may take their questions to the child’s doctor. Pediatricians may be another resource when parents notice that their child is struggling in school.
Pediatricians could provide referrals to other clinicians like audiologists (if a hearing impairment is suspected), neuro-psychologists, speech therapists, etc. These specialists could help provide more data related to why a child is struggling.
Research Organizations that Specialize in Educational Struggles
Not every child will have a medical reason behind their reading struggles. Not every child will have a learning disorder. But some may have underlying medical reasons for their struggles. A child may be diagnosed with dyslexia, hyperlexia, autism, ADHD, etc. These diagnoses could impact reading.
However, one way to find help for children who struggle academically is to research organizations that specialize in educational needs for children with learning disorders or other specific diagnoses. For children with autism who have reading struggles, parents could reach out to organizations like Autism Speaks or visit their web page to find resources.
The Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA) also offers a variety of links related to learning, state resources, professional resources and even different resources for specific diagnoses (like ADHD).
But what about parents whose child doesn’t have a known learning disorder or any type of specific diagnosis? Reading problems could exist on their own unique spectrum; parents can visit sites like Understood or Reading Rockets, which offer a long list of reading resources (and organizations!).
Some Basic Tips for Helping at Home
For some children, reading may just be more of a challenge. If parents discover that their child is reading below benchmark or even that their child just doesn’t feel confident reading aloud, there are some common strategies parents can utilize at home.
Again, children may have different reading struggles. While one child might just struggle with comprehension, another might have difficulty with decoding skills and reading fluency. Younger children may have difficulty identifying their sight words.
Decoding & Reading Fluency Tips
Children who have trouble sounding out words or ‘decoding’ also may struggle with letter recognition and sounds. Stumbling while trying to pronounce a word might mean that reading speed decreases, too.
How do parents help children who struggle with letter recognition, sounds, and decoding. The Literacy Nest offers many tips and strategies for children who struggle with decoding. The site explains that creating the foundation for phonological awareness requires discerning the difference between sounds, breaking up the different sounds of a word, and blending sounds.
So how do parents help develop this foundation? The site recommends breaking up words into chunks or “syllable division.” The word ‘rabbit’ was used as an example. Parents would break the rabbit into two parts “rab” and “bit.”
Literacy Nest also recommends that parents help children point out or ‘mark’ the vowels and explains that parents can have children say the vowel sound first before reading the word. Parents may need to help children figure out the sound the vowel will make…long or short sounds.
Finding patterns in words also is a strategy recommended by the site. Patterns show similar sounds. This could be rhyming words or just words that use the same vowel blends.
Separate from the site’s recommendation, parents also could teach children helpful strategies that aid spelling (which also helps reading!). One such example is: “I before E except after C or when sounding like A as in neighbor and weigh!”
Sight Word Identification
Sight words are often a part of the literacy curriculum in lower elementary grades. Typically, students are given a list of common words that they need to identify on sight. One of the easiest ways to help students learn these words is through memorization or ‘skill and drill.’
Parents can make flashcards for each sight word and practice with children daily.
Sight Word Scavenger Hunt
Want to have fun while teaching children sight words? Grab a list of the words they need to identify and have children find these words during errands to the store…or anywhere. Have them say the word when they find it…then they can scratch it off the list.
Sight Word Matching
Instead of flash cards, create two cards for each sight word and play a standard match game with children.
Sight Word Apps
Apple and Android both offer a number of games that help with sight word identification. Just search for ‘sight words’ via Google Play or the App Store.
Comprehension expectations change as the child advances in grade level. During early reading levels, children may need to simply identify the common ‘wh’ questions of a story: who, what, where, when, why and how.
In later grades, though, comprehension may become a bit more abstract. Children may need to be able to predict what might happen next, understand character differences and perhaps a story’s theme to their own circumstances and experiences.
A comprehension bookmark can serve as a visual reminder related to what the child needs to think about as they read a story. These bookmarks can include different prompts and questions to help children think as they read. Check out sites like Fun in First, What I Have Learned Teaching, and Teach Junkie for examples of these helpful reading tools.
Chunk the Text
Chunking text could help some children with comprehension. Chunking means reading a section at a time to help find meaning. This technique allows children to break up larger sections into more manageable smaller pieces. Young children may chunk by sentence, and older kids might chunk paragraphs or pages. Use a strategy that works best for each child.
Listening to an Audio Book
Children may find it beneficial to listen to an audiobook as they follow along in their book. This is a bit like having a parent read aloud. Audio books could help children identify emotion or perhaps better understand the action of a book. Children also could rewind to listen to parts that they need to reread.
Rereading is a strategy that can help children go back over text they previously read. This can help them find details they missed. Sometimes children need to reread a section to fully understand it. Even adults go back and reread material; this can be a great strategy to aid comprehension.
Using a Reading Program
Children who need help with reading also could benefit from using a lesson-based reading program. Readability is designed to help children with all aspects of reading and includes a built-in AI tutor that guides each lesson.
The AI tutor is programmed to understand a child’s unique voice. This means that when a child mispronounces a word or stumbles, the tutor understands that the child is struggling and will provide help. Readability’s AI tutor also asks questions at the end of each story to test a child’s comprehension of what they read.
Readability is designed for children in preschool to fifth grade; the program can grow with a child and help them strengthen their reading skills throughout elementary school. When using Readability, parents also can set their child’s reading level or the program can determine the child’s level.
Children will only advance to a higher reading level when they demonstrate proficiency in both reading fluency and comprehension. But how do parents know the program is helping their child?
The Parent Dashboard is a portal accessible only to parents. The Dashboard shows parents all the reading data related to their child. Parents can see their child’s reading level, their reading fluency data and how long they read via the program. They also can collate all the data into a report to send to the child’s teacher.
Parents interested in using the program to help their child can sign up for a free trial period. Readability offers a free seven-day trial period that provides children with full access to all the program’s features. Ready to use a virtual AI reading tutor? Sign up for Readability today!