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How To Help A Child Struggling With Reading

Having a child who struggles with reading can be challenging at first. Reading is the foundation of life, it is pretty impossible to go through life not having the ability to read. It plays such a huge part of learning, communication, memory and imagination.

When your child is struggling to read, it can be hard and heartbreaking. It can impact their confidence in learning, growing up with their friends, and motivation to go to school. 

As someone who struggled to read as a child, I remember how I felt- embarrassed and ashamed. It can be a real struggle for some kids. My own son now is struggling and we have seen a lot of improvements since we have been working with him to get him where he needs to be. Some of the things we talk about in this article are some things we have been doing, and recommended by a specialist. 

Each child is different, however. We will be going over resources you can use to get the help your child needs. 

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how to help a struggling reader

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What parents can do in the learning to read process

It starts as babies

Learning to read starts really in the womb. It is proven that reading to your baby while you are pregnant can help with their development as they are growing inside. 

After the baby is born, this is the best time to talk, play and read to them because their brains are absorbing everything while you are interacting with them. At this age you can read anything to them, it helps them build their vocabulary and imitate the mouth movements and sounds. 

When they get a little older having them sit with you, even if they aren’t paying attention to you while you’re reading, reading aloud to them does a number to their brain. You don’t have to read word for word, if your child shows more interest in the pictures, you can talk about what is in the picture, explain what is going on, say the shapes, colors, etc.

As they get older make it an account to read to them for at least 10 minutes a day. To try to keep them interested, have them pick out the book to read. It’s always fun for them when you change your voice and be very expressive while you read, it gets their imagination flowing. 

What to do when your school-aged child doesn’t like to read

When kids find things hard, it’s normal for them to avoid doing it. It’s because they feel discouraged, embarrassed, and they are afraid they will make a mistake.

My son was having some difficulty in school because he wouldn’t ask for help or do his work. I asked why, and he said it was because he was afraid he was going to get into trouble if he said the wrong answer. In no way have I ever gotten mad for him being wrong, but for whatever reason, he thought this.

An extremely important take-away is to let them know it’s ok to make mistakes, it’s better to guess than not say anything at all.

And PRAISE them! I can’t stress this enough. Seeing that you are proud of them and saying they are doing an amazing job, they will want to keep doing it because their confidence has been restored. I notice a huge difference when I note how good he’s doing, even if it took a little longer to get there.

I totally get it, it can be frustrating because you are trying to help them but they just aren’t getting it. The best thing to do is to break it up for them to understand. Take small steps and build on that. Once they get it, react in excitement, the smile on your child’s face is something you’ll never forget. 

Rewarding them with something fun, for reading and completing their work. We have created these fun bookmarks that have inspirational quotes to encourage them to read when they finish reading, they get to be rewarded by what it says on the bookmark. 

Make sure they are reading age-appropriate books. It’s easy to think if you give them slightly more advanced books that they will advance faster. That isn’t so much the case. If they are reading a book that is too hard for them, they will just get discouraged from reading and won’t want to. But if they get easier books, even if it is a level below, they will be able to read the book easier and also build their confidence in reading again. Reading is a building block, start off slow, and gradually build up. 

Making reading a little more fun will help your child love to read. The more they read, the more they will realize how much fun it is to get lost in a book, this will open their minds in a way nothing else can. 

Activities to do

As mentioned above, you can sit and read with them aloud, for 10 minutes every night, it helps them recognize words, sounds, letters, and builds their comprehension skill. 

Reading projects-To make things more fun for your child who is learning to read, do activities that relate to the book, like a craft project or drawing. Reading activities like these help them put the story into a sequence. It builds comprehension skills because they have to think about the book as they do their project and start to dissect the story. 

White Board– Using a whiteboard and markers and or magnets, is a great way to get your child engaged with reading and have fun with it. You can get a basic whiteboard and make out a sentence or word with letter magnets. Your child can read the sentence or word, and also write what is shown on the board. This gets them to practice letters and sounds, putting words together to make a sentence, and it’s great writing practice. The more repetition they have, the more they will remember. 

Worksheets Worksheets are great because they help with so many aspects of reading, and writing. There are so many worksheets from sight words, picture/sentence matching, word search, the list goes on. 

Around the house A real fun reading game you can do that is simple is words around the house. You can write the name of an object on a sticky note and put it on the object. You can have your child go around the house reading each note. You can use this and turn it into many different reading games.

Online Programs– There are numerous reading programs that you can simply download on their tablet. One of my favorites is ABC Mouse. It’s a great program that teaches all subjects and keeps it fun. You can even track your child’s progress, highly recommend! 

My son’s school uses tablets to create a fun learning experience. Every day my son says he had fun learning math because he gets to do fun math games on the tablet. I think this is a great way to get them to love learning. We all know how much kids love their tablets, so why not use it as a learning tool? 

Summer or all year round reading programs– There are all sorts of fun reading programs that big companies do to encourage your child to read. Remember doing BookIt while you were young in school, where you read and Pizza Hut gives you a pizza? Yeah, they still do that!

Programs to checkout: 

“Pull words off a page and making meaning, and for some children that is just a very difficult thing to do. That has nothing to do with intelligence, it has nothing to do with exposure, but has everything to do with, I was born with this brain.”

How to improve reading comprehension for kids

there are a few things you can help improve your child’s comprehension. This is a crucial aspect of reading, if they read and don’t remember what they just read, can be a huge setback. When I was a child I had such a hard time comprehending what I read. I was a slow reader, so that was one reason I had a hard time, but also my mind would wander. I would have to read the same thing about 3 times to understand what I read.

 Over time as I learned to love reading it has gotten a lot better. One way it helped was I read books that I enjoyed.

Comprehension Strategies

Reading aloud There are so many benefits of reading to your child. You build this amazing bond and you get to cuddle and create wonderful memories. But it also helps with their comprehension. It helps them use language to help them learn how the world works. It also helps them process information.

Talk about what you read– After your child has read a story or you read the story, talk about the book. Ask questions about the story. Ask your child what their favorite part was, the least favorite part was. Talking about the story will help them build their thought processing skills, retaining information, and reiterate information. 

Recap the story– It goes hand in hand with talking about the story. But instead of asking questions, have your child summarize the story. Let them tell you what the story was about in their own words. This will show you how they are understanding the story, and how their imagination and critical thinking skills are working.

Repeat Have them re-read the sentence that doesn’t make sense to them. Or if they are struggling with the sentence go over it slowly with them and have them re-read it once they get it. 

Read a book they like– In school it is hard to do this because they don’t really get to pick out what they read. But at home, let them pick out a book that they like. My son gets to pick out a book every week from the school library and he gets so excited for me to read it to him at night. We also went to Barnes and Noble and picked out a spiderman book that has 10 different stories in them that are 5-minute reads. He loves them, they are fast and suites his interest. 

 Write down words they don’t know– As they are reading write down words they struggle with, then go over them after they are done reading. 

Try a different format– Not every child is the same. Some process things differently and remember things differently. If they remember things better by writing, let them write down points of the book that stood out to the- key points. If they remember better by drawing, let them draw out what they remember. Let them tell you what works best for them. 

 Help them keep their spot It’s easy to lose your spot reading sometimes. If your child tends to have that problem, have them use a rule or piece of paper to help them keep their spot in the book. That way they will stay consistent in reading and not get confused by losing their place. 

Discover the cause of the struggle– If you see your child is constantly struggling with reading and don’t see any improvements, talk to their teacher and see if you can talk to a reading specialist. It could be something like dyslexia, and learning disorder or even something called Irlen Syndrome (more on that later).

Tutor– Having a tutor is so great. It seems to be common now than when I was in school. Even if they are doing okay in school, it’s never a bad idea to have a tutor for extra support, especially while school is out. Summertime kids tend to forget a lot. Yes, they need a break. But, if your child is struggling, it could be a good idea to think about tutoring at least once a week or a couple of times a week during the summer.

Fun reading activities for kids, to keep them engaged and learn to love reading.

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Why kids may struggle with reading

There are a variety of different reasons why a child may struggle with reading. It could be due to a learning disability, hearing or vision problem, or maybe they didn’t get the experience with books and literacy like they should have. That is why reading to them at a very young age is a very important part of their daily development. 

Another possibility that they are struggling with reading is from something called Irlen Syndrome. What this is, is a disorder of how the brain interprets light wavelengths. The brain becomes overactive to certain light signals. This affects more than just the vision. It is not an optical problem, it is the problem with the brain’s ability to process visual information. You can read more about this here

I have never heard of this before my nephew was diagnosed with it about a year ago. He is an intelligent boy, but he just had no urge to read. At first, my sister just thought he was struggling with reading so she got him a tutor. The lady that tutored him had just taken a training talking about Irlen Syndrom and told my sister about it. They decided to try giving him a special paper that helps him process the typing on the paper. He also got special glasses specifically for the syndrome and it has improved his reading tremendously. He has no problems reading anymore.

Talk to a specialist and see if you can get to the root of the problem. More than likely it’s not because your child is just being stubborn. 

how to help your struggling reader

Why reading is so hard 

How can I help my struggling reader at home

When I found out that my son was struggling with reading, right away I felt guilt. Maybe I didn’t read to him enough when he was little. I tried to every night, but when I had more kids it got harder and I actually forgot about reading at night.

And to be honest I had no idea they started reading at such an early age. When I was in kindergarten we were just learning the ABCs. I didn’t prepare my son for a school as I should have.

So, when I learned he was struggling, we were proactive. We didn’t want him to get help back because he was already one of the oldest due to his birthday, and the tallest in his grade.

We went to Barnes and Noble and found books that were appropriate for him. Books that had no more than 4-6 words on the page in big font. We also got some workbooks and worksheetsthat are in his grade level. 

He is in a reading class working with a specialist, and she had sent him home with some books for him to read to us as well. 

We switch it up every night. We do his normal homework which he does go through really fast. Then we add an extra assignment, from the workbook, the whiteboard, and magnets, or have him read a book to us. After doing this plus his extra help at school, we have all seen a lot of improvements. 

The key with homework, especially with younger kids, do no longer than 10-15 minutes. If they start to fidget around and lose interest, end the homework for the night. They are showing that they are getting overwhelmed and tired, it’s best to do that then fight them to do their homework. It’s important to make homework a positive thing. However, if it is a continuous thing that they can’t finish their homework in 10 minutes that would be a good time to talk to their teacher and see if your child needs extra help. 

Talk to your teacher and see what they recommend doing to help your child. If your child needs a special class, don’t worry or feel bad. Don’t let them know that it’s a “special” class. The soon they get into a reading class the better they will do, and the more normal it will seem to them. Maybe after a while, they will graduate from the reading class. 

If your teacher recommends a tutor take advantage of that. There is no shame in getting help, especially for your child, so they can succeed. Having a tutor in the summertime also is a great idea so they don’t forget everything that they just learned. They will be ready and possible ahead of the game for the next school year. Talk about a self-esteem booster!

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how to help your struggling reader

When to get help for my child’s reading struggles 

Preschool is when they start building a foundation for reading. They work with letters and sounds, writing their name. 

As they get to kindergarten they build on top of what they have already learned, and move on to writing words, learning sight words, and creating sentences. In the first half of the year, they start this process, and they do an assessment to see where they are. If they need help your child’s teacher will reach out and let you know if there are any concerns.

At the age of 6, is the time they should know how to read. They should be able to sound out simple words on their own or with little help. They should also know their letters and the sounds each one makes. If you see they are struggling with these things at this age I would start reaching out and see what will benefit your child. 

Signs your child may be struggling with reading

If you suspect your child might be struggling with reading, or your not sure if your child is, here are a few signs to know if your child needs extra help to get where they need to be. 

  • Having a hard time to sound our words
  • Has trouble remembering words
  • Doesn’t want to read
  • Has a hard time reading out loud
  • Hard time recognizing words
  • Lack of fluency in reading- pauses, and monotone 
  • Has a hard time understanding what was just read
  • Can’t remember what was read
  • Difficulty spelling and writing
  • Takes an unusually long time
  • Easily distracted when reading

If your child is showing any of these signs, it would be a good idea to talk to a specialist and get a professional opinion on what to do. 

It’s not an easy task to make sure that your child is succeeding in school. But, as a parent that’s what we want for our kids, to learn and be educated, it’s so important. It’s our job to work with teachers and not have it fall on only them. We are a team, and it’s our job to support our child’s learning. If you want your child to succeed in school and life, we need to be their number one cheerleader. Build a healthy example of learning. 

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