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My 9-year-old has trouble reading. He is getting help from his special education teacher in school, but he's still at least two grade levels behind. Is there anything we can do at home to help him improve his reading skills?

Question: 

My 9-year-old has trouble reading. He is getting help from his special education teacher in school, but he's still at least two grade levels behind. Is there anything we can do at home to help him improve his reading skills?

Answer: 

Reading doesn't come naturally to some students, but there are many things you can do at home with your child to help improve his reading skills. The Reading is Fundamental website has a great list of 20 Ways for Parents to Encourage Reading, and Reading Rockets has a robust parent strategy section. You can find helpful suggestions at both of these sites. There are also a number of free games and activities online that can help encourage struggling or reluctant readers. Depending on your son's reading level and maturity, some of these websites may feel too young, so it is important that you give him a variety of options and see what he likes best. A good resource to help you get started is Learning to Read with Multimedia Materials. The article discusses the different ways multimedia tools can be used to support reading instruction and provides a resource list with suggestions of different websites and games to help kids build reading skills. Starfall has a collection of online books and activities for different reading levels and ages. Students can hear words read aloud and read at their own pace. The section I'm Reading might be most appropriate for your son. Sylvan Learning has a free website called Book Adventure that may also be motivating for your son. Students read books, take a short quiz and earn points. Points can then be redeemed for prizes (books, games, etc.). Book Adventure also has a page for parents with suggestions for encouraging reading, making reading fun and recognizing reading challenges. A game format can be a non-threatening way to practice reading. If your son enjoys the game or wants to find out what happens next, he may be more motivated to read. PBS has a great selection of educational games and activities for students. PBS Kids Cyberchase is designed for slightly older elementary or middle school students. While not a reading game specifically, there is a significant amount of text for students to read. All spoken dialogue is also shown on screen, and players have to read signs and other information in the game. This type of experience may help your son practice reading without even realizing it. The Kaboose Family Network also has a page with a variety of free online reading and spelling games for different age groups. If you're interested in purchasing a software program for use at home, educational publishers such as Tom Snyder and Houghton Mifflin sell a number of programs, both games and skill building tools that can help struggling readers. You can also search for and compare reading programs using the Tech Matrix.

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"You may have tangible wealth untold. Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. Richer than I you can never be — I had a mother who read to me." — Strickland Gillilan