The effects of falling behind in reading and feeling like a failure can take a large toll on kids. Children can lose all desire to learn to read or go to school. Some begin to act out in class or set low expectations for themselves.

Madeline, an appealing 8-year old at the Lab School in Washington, D.C., remembered what it was like before she was given intensive help with reading:

"I just couldn't read the words that were in the books we had to read. I always felt left out. And a lot of the mornings when it was time to get up and go to school, I kept saying, 'No, no. I don't want to go.'"

Although the best remedy for a child's low self-esteem about reading is, of course, to teach him or her how to read, there are other things that can help:

Put Downs & Comebacks

Learn how to respond to a discouraged kid so he or she keeps trying. Put Downs & Comebacks includes six typical "put downs" a child who is struggling may say or think about himself as well as suggested "comebacks" you can say to turn these negative thoughts and feelings around.

Target the Problem!

Empower children with information on what they can do to help themselves accomodate or overcome their difficulties. Target the Problem! describes different problem areas that children have with reading. Within each area, we've included suggestions on what kids can do to help themselves.


Certain kids can also advocate for themselves. Discuss with children how to explain their difficulties to teachers and other students, and provide them with advice on what types of help they can ask for in the classroom.

Children are, of course, much more than how they do in school. You are your child's biggest fan. No matter what, let them know how much you value them just the way they are!

Featured Video: Self-Esteem and Reading Difficulties

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Especially for Parents

Actor and author Henry Winkler reminisces about how dyslexia impacted his school years in this article from Highlights for Children magazine. "Now I know," he writes, "that even if a person learns differently, he or she can still be filled with greatness."
Children who aren't motivated to read can benefit from support at home. Learn what parents can do to make reading a more enjoyable experience for struggling readers in this interview with Dr. Marie Carbo.
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Featured FAQs about helping struggling readers

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Dr. Joanne Meier
Dr. Joanne Meier
October 24, 2013
Maria Salvadore
Maria Salvadore
"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free." — Frederick Douglass