Why Is My Child Struggling With Reading?

August 24, 2020

Why Is My Child Struggling With Reading?

The realization that a child is struggling with reading can take parents by surprise. A parent-teacher conference could have drawn attention to the concerns, and perhaps parents received test scores that showed that the child was reading below benchmark reading standards. Sometimes, however, parents are the first to pick up on a child’s reading struggle.

Difficulty understanding the plot of the story or stammering while pronouncing words could raise concerns for parents who feel that their child should be reading more proficiently. Parents may wonder: “Why is my child struggling with reading?” Parents may feel anxious and push for intervention, but denial of the problem also could be a convenient coping mechanism for parents who aren’t ready to confront their child’s struggle.

Fear of Getting Reading Help

Some parents may worry that their child will be labeled or feel that there is a stigma associated with special education instruction that may be part of an individualized education plan (IEP). While special education might have been stigmatized in the past, today many children qualify for some form of special education assistance. The National Center for Education Statistics reported that in 2018-2019, 14 percent of students in public school received special education services.

Still, not all reading difficulties require intervention, and not all students who read below benchmark will qualify for an IEP or specialized services. For those who don’t qualify for intervention or services in the classroom, the responsibility may fall on parents to help children at home to ensure that they make the strides necessary to increase reading fluency and hit benchmark standards.

Struggling to Help with Reading

Parents aren’t teachers, though. The struggle for parents becomes how to help children,  especially if they are reading at a level–or several levels–below peers. How do parents successfully boost a child’s reading fluency?  Or ensure that their child can meet the benchmark reading standards associated with their grade-level?

There are many options for parents, but not every option is ideal for each child. Reading struggles can be complex, involving both struggles in comprehension and phonics. Other children may only struggle with one component of reading. However, before parents can address their child’s reading struggle, they have to understand why their child is struggling.

Before starting any at-home strategies, parents should investigate the underlying cause of the reading struggle. So why is my child struggling with reading? Here are a few explanations for reading struggles in children:

Why Is My Child Struggling With Reading?

Dyslexia, Autism and Hearing Impairment

Dyslexia, autism and hearing concerns could cause a child to struggle with reading. Children with autism may have amazing decoding skills but struggle with comprehension. A child with dyslexia may have multiple struggles that affect reading skills. And a hearing impairment may cause a child to miss sounds and, thus, cause them to struggle with reading or spelling. However, a child’s reading struggle could be unique with any of these diagnoses.

The Mayo Clinic defines dyslexia as “…a learning disorder that involves difficulty reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words (decoding).” Mayo Clinic explains common hallmark symptoms of dyslexia that could raise red flags for parents;  a child may read below the expected level, have issues with sequences, and can’t visually distinguish the similarities and differences of letters, but there are several additional signs, too.

If a parent suspects that their child may have dyslexia, they should ask for guidance from their child’s pediatrician. Children may need to see other specialists (like a licensed educational psychologist or neurologist) and/or clinicians for the appropriate diagnosis to be made. Autism, too, needs to be diagnosed by a professional, and a pediatrician may help parents find specialists to help with this journey. A hearing impairment can be diagnosed through testing, too.

Inconsistent Reading Habits

A child may struggle with reading if there isn’t enough encouragement to read at home. The more a child reads, the more fluent they may become at reading. This is why many school districts encourage children to engage in nightly reading–typically 20 to 30 minutes each day.

If parents are dismissing this recommendation, a child’s proficiency could lag behind peers. When kids are behind, though, parents can read with them each night. Help them sound out words and ask them questions about the story.

For young readers, make sight word flashcards so a child can easily and quickly identify all their sight words. Then encourage them to find the sight words in the stories they read.

Reading Has Become Boring Homework

Yes, kids need to read consistently. However, years of nagging may have left kids to feel that reading is just another homework assignment. This could lead to them not engaging in the reading assignments or not enjoying the act of reading. This reluctance to read or engage in their assignments can, once again, cause them to fall behind.

Why Is My Child Struggling With Reading?

A Child Fell Down The Summer Slide

Reading isn’t just something to do during the school year. Kids need to engage in reading (and math!) during summer to keep skills fresh. The summer slide refers to a regression in skills related to the long summer vacation. Children who don’t open a book all summer can easily regress and lose reading skills.

Join a book club during the summer and keep kids reading!


Reading difficulties could be tied to socio-economic differences, too. Reading Rockets explains that children may  “…have weaknesses in vocabulary, academic language, and academic background knowledge.” That is, children might not have been exposed to as many words or have had the same educational advantages as their peers. This weakness could be related to parents not having time to read to them as well as other socio-economic struggles.

An Easy Way to Help? Use a Reading App.

Parents might not have the time to sit down and work one-on-one with a child. However, parents can utilize a reading app like Readability to keep kids reading and address their unique struggles.

Readability offers a built-in AI tutor that helps children throughout their reading journey. The virtual tutor will gently correct mispronunciations and ask children questions related to the story to gauge understanding. The app advances in difficulty as the child exhibits proficiency so that lessons are never too difficult…or too easy.

Ready to try out Readability? Sign up for a free seven-day trial today and help children become more fluent readers!