How to Help a Child Struggling with Reading

How to Help a Child Struggling with Reading

The sight of a child curled up with a book, lost in the magic of words, is a beautiful one. Perhaps you dreamed of sharing your favorite books with your children one day, and now your child becomes frustrated during storytime. For some children, learning to read seems smooth. For others, it can be a bumpy road filled with struggles. 

If your child is encountering challenges on their reading journey, you're not alone. There are many ways you can support them, so here are a few ideas for struggling readers to become more confident.

A young boy with blonde hair and a yellow striped shirt holds Cows Can Moo! Can You! by Dr. Seuss. He sits in front of a pale yellow wall on top of a red beanbag. He gazes into the book.

What are the signs and causes of your child’s reading challenges? 

How do you know your child is struggling with reading? As you read with them at home, you may recognize the signs: 

  • Difficulty sounding out words or blending sounds
  • Frequent mispronunciations or poor spelling
  • Hesitation or unwillingness to read aloud
  • Avoiding reading tasks or activities
  • Frustration or negative emotions associated with reading

There are many reasons why children may struggle with learning to read. Determining why your child struggles with reading may be difficult, but ultimately will lead you to the end goal of finding a solution. 

Limited exposure or lack of practice: Reading is a skill that improves with practice, just like learning to ride a bike. If your child hasn't been exposed to books regularly or hasn't had many opportunities to practice reading independently, they might fall behind their peers.

English as a Second Language (ESL): For children learning English as a second language, mastering the nuances of phonics, grammar, and vocabulary can be especially challenging. Patience and specific support are crucial to build their skills and confidence.

Learning challenges: Dyslexia and other learning difficulties can impact a child's ability to process language, sound out words, or retain information. It's important to seek professional evaluation if you suspect a learning challenge might be hindering your child's progress.

Specific reading difficulties: Some children might struggle with specific aspects of reading, such as sounding out words (decoding), spelling, fluency, or comprehension. 

Anxiety around reading: Negative experiences or frustration with reading can lead to anxiety, making children avoid reading altogether. Creating a positive and encouraging environment is key to overcoming this hurdle.

Try These Strategies for Reading Success

If your child has challenges with reading now, that doesn’t mean they will always dislike reading or have issues as an adult. The joy of reading (and all the life skills that come with it) are not lost! 

Once you’ve identified the potential roadblocks, there are actionable steps you can take to help your child find their reading success.

Make Reading Fun, Rather Than a Chore

  • Read together and find connection: Snuggle up for bedtime stories, take turns reading paragraphs, or act out scenes from the book. Make reading a shared experience to foster togetherness, memories, and enjoyment.
  • Turn reading into an adventure: Choose books with captivating stories and characters that match your child's interests. Use silly voices, sound effects, and different reading positions to keep reading time light and engaging.
  • Incorporate games and activities: Integrate reading into playtime with word games, scavenger hunts based on book clues, or by having your child create their own stories.
  • Establish a rewards system: Celebrate milestones and achievements with small rewards, like stickers, choosing the next book, or a special outing. While the focus should be on intrinsic motivation, not solely earning rewards, this step may help kickstart a reluctant reader.

Practice Makes Progress… Not Perfection

  • Read regularly: Incorporate reading into your daily routine, even if it's just for 15 minutes before bed or after dinner.
  • Variety is key: Introduce different types of reading materials, like graphic novels, poems, magazines, or non-fiction books related to their hobbies.
  • Try audiobooks: Play audiobooks in the car, during chores, or before bed to expose your child to language in a different format. They can even follow along in the hard copy book, helping them to associate the sounds they’re hearing to written words.

Work with Your Child’s Teachers and Doctors

  • Open the channels of communication: Talk to your child's teachers about their reading progress and any specific challenges they are facing. Ask them for their perspective on how your child’s reading skills are developing and offer to check in at an interval that works for you both.
  • Support the teacher's efforts: Ask about classroom reading activities and how you can reinforce them at home. Your child’s teacher may ask you to practice certain skills, recommend supplementary materials, or 
  • Seek professional help: If you have concerns about your child’s development, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Your child’s school may have extra help or resources, like a reading specialist. Your child’s pediatrician may be able to answer questions related to learning disabilities.

It’s important to keep this in perspective: every child learns at their own pace. Be patient, encouraging, and celebrate their progress. By creating a positive and supportive environment, filled with fun and engaging reading experiences, you can help your child find confidence and joy in developing this lifelong skill.

A little girl with curly hair sits at a wood table. She holds up her hands and each of her fingers are adorned with a sticker. Two space-themed books rest on the table and a collection of planet coloring pages are collected in the center.

Ready to continue on your child’s reading journey? Subscribe to our Preschool Box for children ages 3-5 or Lil Readers Book Club for children ages 5-7 to get a curated box filled with age-appropriate books, activities, and resources to support your child's reading success!

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.