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Struggling Readers

There are lots of reasons a child may have trouble with reading. Whether you are wondering if your child has a learning disability or looking for ways to help, these questions will help you support a struggling reader.

Click below for answers to the following struggling readers questions:

Question 1: I am homeschooling my child, who does well in every subject but reading. Do you have any suggestions for teaching phonics?
Question 2: Why can't my child re-read a word in a sentence that she just sounded out?
Question 3: What can I do at home to help my second grader who struggles with reading?
Question 4: I have a student who has trouble blending phonemes. Any suggestions?
Question 5: Do you have suggestions for lesson plans to teach remedial reading?
Question 6: What remedial reading methods work best for students with learning disabilities?
Question 7: Is there anything I can do at home to help my dyslexic child learn to read and spell?
Question 8: I'm concerned that my kindergartener is not progressing with reading and writing at the rate of her classmates. We try to sit her down to practice sight words, but she loses interest and doesn't remember them the next day. How can I help her?
Question 9: My child is having trouble identifying sight words. What can I do to help?
Question 10: My daughter is reading below grade level. What can I do to help her become a good reader and get to a point where she enjoys reading?
Question 11: If a child has been identified as having a learning disability and is currently receiving special education for reading, math, writing, and language development, how should this be placed within a school wide reading framework? Specifically, should this c
Question 12: 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:

I am homeschooling my child, who does well in every subject but reading. Do you have any suggestions for teaching phonics?

Answer:

The resources below may give you some ideas for new ways you can approach phonics instruction with your child:

This next article from Reading Rockets describes the elements of effective reading instruction. It may be able to guide you in ensuring that you have addressed all of the key instructional components when teaching your child to read:

If, after trying some of these teaching strategies, your child is still having a hard time with phonics, you may want to consider other reasons for his difficulties. There are many children who are bright, but also have a very challenging time learning the basic skills of reading. Many of these children learn differently and require more explicit and varied instruction in mastering literacy skills than other kids their age who seem to learn how to read and write almost effortlessly.

This is not a reflection of the intelligence of the children who struggle, but a sign that there may be something impeding their progress. This discrepancy between ability and achievement is, in part, what defines a learning disability. It can be difficult to hear that your child may have a learning disability, but it is important to keep in mind that, by definition, people with learning disabilities have average to above average intelligence. They may need to be taught in a different way than they've previously been taught and may need to be shown learning strategies that work for them.

Discovering your child's learning differences, as well as ways to work through them, may help him to become an advocate in his education, to learn compensating strategies, to feel better about himself and his ability to learn, and to more fully reach his academic potential. The following articles describe some common characteristics that children with learning disabilities exhibit:

If, after reading these articles, you suspect that your child is showing signs of a learning disability, you may consider requesting an educational evaluation through your public school, which is free and within your legal rights as a parent to request.

This evaluation is a way of gathering information so that you can better understand your child's strengths and weaknesses, as well as the best ways to help him become a more successful and willing reader. The evaluation will also give you an opportunity to consult with educators about your child's specific needs. The following articles will provide you with information about educational evaluations and an overview of the evaluation process:


Question:

Why can't my child re-read a word in a sentence that she just sounded out?

Answer:

This may happen because she is concentrating so hard on the decoding (sounding out), that she is unable to remember and comprehend the full sentence. This is a good indication that the books she is reading are too challenging for her at this time.

The next time you and your child choose books, you may want to ask her teacher, a librarian, or a reading specialist to help you find "just right" books for your child. These should be books that your child is interested in and that she can read with about 95% accuracy the first time. Ask her to read a page or two aloud while you silently count the errors from the total numbers of words on the pages she reads. This will give you an estimate of her accuracy.

By reading "just right" books, your daughter will practice all aspects of reading, including fluency and comprehension. And comprehension, ultimately, is the goal of reading! As she reads "just right" books, her ability to decode words will become even more automatic. As she gains proficiency, the text will become more meaningful because she will be able to understand and enjoy what she is reading.

Check out Reading Rockets' recommended books by theme for some ideas!


Question:

What can I do at home to help my second grader who struggles with reading?

Answer:

The following articles will give you ideas for fun things that you can do with your child to promote literacy at home:

One of the most helpful things you can do to foster a love of reading is to read with your child, promote literacy through everyday activities, and be a good role model of a reader. These are gifts that you, as a parent, are the best equipped to provide and are ones that will stay with him throughout his life. Here are some articles to assist you:

The following article, although geared toward teaching students with LD, provides good information that can be useful to all parents:


Question:

I have a student who has trouble blending phonemes. Any suggestions?

Answer:

Mastering phonemes is the gateway to reading. Though some children begin recognizing sound-symbol patterns just through exposure to books, many children need direct instruction in this area. The following articles may give you some good ideas for helping your student:


Question:

Do you have suggestions for lesson plans to teach remedial reading?

Answer:

The following article describes the nine elements of effective reading instruction. You may find it useful to develop your lesson plans from these elements:

The majority of students who struggle with reading have difficulty with phonics and decoding, so you will want to be particularly mindful that your students are getting direct, explicit, and consistent instruction in this area. These articles provide suggestions for differentiating instruction to accommodate students who are struggling with reading:

The following articles suggest activities and teaching strategies:

You may also find it helpful to post your question to other teachers as well as reading specialists on the LD OnLine online forums.


Question:

What remedial reading methods work best for students with learning disabilities?

Answer:

There are many reading programs available to help struggling readers. Reading programs should address the individual needs of each child. Effective programs target the learning areas needing attention, and also present information in a way that is the most beneficial to the child’s learning preference.

There is no perfect method for teaching reading, and no one method works for everyone. However, there are several research-based programs that can help struggling readers. The following articles highlight some of these programs:

On Reading Rockets, there are several articles that address reading programs and their benefits for young children:


Question:

Is there anything I can do at home to help my dyslexic child learn to read and spell?

Answer:

Even though the English language is complex, dyslexic children CAN learn phonics! They need the support of a sequential, multisensory, structured reading program, and solid reading support at home (including reading together, playing games that isolate sounds or build words, etc.).

The Reading Rockets website focuses entirely on reading and how to help kids who struggle. See, for example, the section on strategies to help kids who struggle. Also check out this page for parents, which gives you tips on what you can do at home.

And here is a link to LD Online's collection of articles on dyslexia.


Question:

I'm concerned that my kindergartener is not progressing with reading and writing at the rate of her classmates. We try to sit her down to practice sight words, but she loses interest and doesn't remember them the next day. How can I help her?

Answer:

The following articles will give you an idea of the types of skills that your child should be demonstrating at her age:

A disinterest in learning sight words is most likely due to the fact that she is not developmentally ready yet. You may want to hold off practicing sight words for a little while and instead focus on incorporating reading and writing into the everyday fun activities that you share, such as reading a recipe and baking together, writing a grocery list, and sending notes to each other and other family members.

Allow her to scribble letters without correction and use letter magnets and stamps. Take dictation while she tells you her ideas. In this way, she will discover the joy, power and practicality of literacy and will be inspired to learn more as she is ready, rather than getting bogged down in the mechanics of reading and writing.

Many children want their home to be a more relaxed place with less explicit instruction than a typical school setting. This doesn't mean that real learning can't take place at home, but it can be presented in a way that is playful and fun for both of you.

The following articles may give you ideas of ways that you can encourage your daughter to improve her literacy skills while taking some of the pressure off both of you:

One of the most valuable gifts you can give your daughter is to instill in her a love of reading and writing and a genuine curiosity and desire to learn. She will take this gift with her throughout her lifetime.


Question:

My child is having trouble identifying sight words. What can I do to help?

Answer:

There are many ways to help your child develop his reading skills. Sight words can be practiced using flashcards, which you can easily make at home using index cards. Use pictures, symbols and colors to help reinforce the word.

Adding fun activities like writing the words in shaving cream, in the sand, on a chalkboard, or using magnetic letters may be motivating for your young learner, and is a good way to help him feel the shape of the word.

Also, point to words in stories you are reading. Stop on a familiar sight word (like: the, that, this, and) so your child can fill in the word.


Question:

My daughter is reading below grade level. What can I do to help her become a good reader and get to a point where she enjoys reading?

Answer:

Beginning readers need lots of practice reading – it takes time, practice, time, and more practice! Work with your daughter's teacher to learn exactly at what level she is reading. Then, go to the library and load up on books written at that level and below. Provide her with time each day to read and reread those below reading level books. You'll want to build up her confidence and fluency with those books. Then, support her reading by reading her the books at her instructional level. Prompt her to sound out words that can be sounded out (and just tell her the ones that can't or are too tricky). Praise her efforts and reread each book multiple times over the course of a week or two. Finally, get some terrific children's literature written above her reading level. Model lots of good expression and let her hear what good, fluent reading sounds like. Check Reading Rockets' Books & Authors section for some great titles!

Do everything you can to provide a fun climate for reading. If a book is too hard, put it away. Reinforce her efforts and continue to work closely with your school and teachers. If she continues to struggle, talk with them about additional testing and some one-on-one supervised tutoring.


Question:

If a child has been identified as having a learning disability and is currently receiving special education for reading, math, writing, and language development, how should this be placed within a school wide reading framework? Specifically, should this c

Answer:

We have research to indicate that when a student is performing below the level of the reading instruction being delivered in the general education program, the classroom program has little effect on the target student. Instead, tutoring accounts for the student's growth. Therefore, when classroom instruction is not aligned to the skill level of the target student, I don't think it's necessary for the student to be in the classroom for reading instruction. It's better to maximize time in tutoring. (If, on the other hand, classroom instruction can be aligned to the student's needs in meaningful ways, there is evidence, at least in math, to suggest that the student benefits from participating both in the general education program as well as tutoring. Even then, however, the tutoring program accounts for the greater amount of progress.) A student's ongoing progress monitoring (i.e., weekly or biweekly assessment) should be conducted at instruction level, not grade-appropriate material. (For benchmarking [i.e., 3-4 times per year], measurement should occur at both levels.)

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.
"The man who does not read good books is no better than the man who can't." — Mark Twain