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illustration of young girl struggling with reading and writing

Struggling Readers

Why Are So Many Children Having Difficulties?

A child’s background and prior experiences can contribute to increased risk of reading problems. However, the are four factors that hinder reading development regardless of a child’s background. Find out what they are in this brief overview.

Difficulties learning to read result from a combination of factors. In general, children who are most at-risk for reading failure are those who enter school with limited exposure to language and thus less prior knowledge of concepts related to phonemic sensitivity, letter knowledge, print awareness, the purposes of reading, and general verbal skills, including vocabulary.

Children raised in poverty, youngsters with limited proficiency in English, children with speech and hearing impairments, and children from homes where the parent’s reading levels are low are clearly at increased risk of reading failure. Likewise, youngsters with sub average intellectual capabilities have difficulties learning to read.

However, it is very important to note that a substantial number of children from highly literate households and who have been read to by their parents since very early in life also have difficulties learning to read.

Given this general background, recent research has been able to identify and replicate findings which point to at least four factors that hinder reading development among children irrespective of their environmental, socioeconomic, ethnic, and biological factors.

These four factors include:

  • deficits in phoneme awareness and developing the alphabetic principle
  • deficits in acquiring reading comprehension strategies and applying them to the reading of text
  • deficits in developing and maintaining the motivation to learn to read
  • limitations in effectively preparing teachers

Excerpted from: Lyon, G. R. (July 10, 1997). Report on Learning Disabilities Research. Testimony before the Committee on Education and the Workforce, U.S. House of Representatives.