Reading Help for the Struggling Reader
No parent wants their child to struggle with reading, but it’s important to be aware of the signs of reading struggles in order provide your child with effective reading help if necessary. Repeated ear infections as a young child, speech delays, or difficulty with the pronunciation of certain sounds can all signal possible reading difficulties later down the track.
Another sign that your child may struggle with reading is the difficulty to recognise the letters of the alphabet. Any difficulty with the alphabet or the related alphabetic principle, that is, the relation of letters to specific sounds, can lead to reading difficulties.
In order to read effectively, young readers need to be able to:
- Know the names and sounds of letters
- Break words down into individual sounds
- Run sounds together in order to make words
- Pronounce new words and remember these pronunciations
If parents notice any issues their child has with the aforementioned reading skills, it’s important that they give them effective reading help to put them on the right track. Teachers believe that early detection of reading struggles is key to turning them around. Occasionally a child just needs more time, but often it is the case that the longer a child struggles with reading, the more difficult it is to address the problem and correct it.
The best reading programmes address five key literacy areas in order to teach kids how to read. Here is a breakdown of those five areas, including the struggles that kids may experience within each, and what parents and teachers can do to help overcome them.
Difficulty with Phonemic Awareness
Phonemic Awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate the individual sounds in words, known as phonemes. Phonemes combine to create syllables and words. There are 26 letters in the alphabet that, both individually and in combinations, make up the 44 sounds of the English language. For example, the small, one-syllable word ‘bat’ actually has three phonemes: /b/ /a/ /t/. The word ‘that’ also has three phonemes, one of which is a phoneme created by the combination of two letters: /th/.
Phonemic awareness is essential as it is the foundation for both word-recognition and spelling skills. Phonemic awareness skills are also a key predictor of how well children will learn to read during the early years of school. Struggles in this skill area can include:
- Difficulty with even the simplest of rhymes, such as selecting words that rhyme with ‘bat.’
- A lack of interest in word play.
- Difficulty in breaking down words into their parts, and identifying the phonemes within words.
Reading Help for Phonemic Awareness
- Make sure the reading programme used focuses on all five of the literacy skills areas, including phonemic awareness skills.
- If your child is older than grade two, make sure that they can use a programme outside of school, such as an online programme, that reinforces phonemic awareness.
- Play simple rhyming games that boost sound-recognition skills, for example, make up sentences where every word begins with the same letter or phoneme.
- Teach them poetry or nursery rhymes, which help build up a word bank for kids, as well as provide a steady stream of memorable rhymes.
- Point out the letters of the alphabet whenever possible.
Difficulty with Phonics
Kids who struggle with phonics frequently get stuck in their reading and have difficulty sounding words out when they read. Parents and teachers may notice a few of the following characteristics of a child struggling with phonics, including:
- Reading slowly.
- Guessing the pronunciation of a word based on the first letter or two.
- Difficulty sounding out a word.
- A lack of comprehension due to disproportionate effort sounding out words.
- Difficulty matching sounds and letters.
Reading Help for Difficulties with Phonics
- Have the child read aloud at any and every opportunity: road signs, recipes, anything written that is available around the house.
- If possible, help the child to take the time to look at every letter in a word, not just the first one or two.
- Ask the child to write letters and emails to friends and family. Get the child to read out each word that he or she writes. This will help reinforce the sound of each word in their mind.
- Make sure that younger readers know the alphabet and the sounds of the letters very well. Point out letters and ask the child to sound them out.
- Use a synthetic phonics approach for phonics instruction. This helps kids build up the skills to recognise the sounds that letters make, and then pronounce them as they sound out words.
Fluent readers are able to read a text with accuracy, speed, and correct expression. Readers who struggle may be characterised by:
- Expressionless reading.
- Taking a long time to read something silently.
- Not altering the voice to reflect the punctuation of a sentence.
- Very slow reading when reading aloud, and often loses his or her place.
- Frustration with reading and not understanding what is read.
Reading Help for Difficulties with Fluency
- Read portions of text aloud to the child and have them follow the words with his or her finger. Then ask the child to read the text back to you.
- Repetition is key. Read a child’s favourite book to them over and over again. Have them read that book aloud as well. The more familiar the child is with the text, the more they will be able to fluently read the text.
- If the child is able to decode words well, then help them with speed and accuracy. Have the child match his or her voice to yours as you read aloud to them. Remind the child about what the punctuation in a sentence means.
- Provide the child with books that are appropriate to their reading level and have a set and predictable vocabulary.
- Audio books are very helpful if the child can read along with their own copy of the story.
A vocabulary is the bank of words that a reader knows and understands, which can then be called upon when reading. Early readers know more spoken words than they would recognise on a page, and so the goal of literacy instruction is to help kids increase the amount of words they automatically recognise on a page. Kids who struggle with vocabulary often:
- Frequently stumble over words.
- Do not understand words, even if they are able to read them.
- Frequently misuse common words.
- Use a limited vocabulary.
- Do not understand words in an appropriate reading level text.
Reading Help for Difficulties with Vocabulary
- Read to the child every day.
- Talk to the child for a generous amount of time each day. Try to use new words often, and to use those words repeatedly, so that the child remembers them.
- Create vocabulary lists each week and help the child learn the words and their meanings.
- Discuss homonyms – words that sound the same but have different meanings and spellings. Familiarity with these words will help them be more prepared in their reading.
- Encourage the child to read alone and help the child enjoy reading by providing ample appropriate reading level material.
Comprehension is the ability of the reader to understand the meaning of a text. Readers who struggle with text comprehension are often:
- Unable to mentally picture the events of the text.
- Unable to summarise a text.
- Unable to discover the ‘main idea’ of a text.
- Confused as to the actions of characters in a story.
- At a loss to describe what may happen next in a story.
Reading Help for Text Comprehension
- Help the child to map out the story: beginning, middle and end.
- Ask the child who the main character is (if the text is a narrative). Ask questions such as: What is the character’s name? How would you describe the character? What is one thing that the character did in the story?
- If the child is reading, stop the child at appropriate places to ask questions such as: “Does this make sense?” “Why do you think the character just did?” “What do you think the character will do next?”
- If the reader struggles with understanding a text, get them to reread confusing parts.
Reading Eggs offers reading instruction in all five of the aforementioned literacy areas. Children are assessed before they begin the Reading Eggs programme, ensuring that all activities are conducted at the correct reading level for each child. Each lesson uses all five or a combination of the key literacy areas of instruction, and when a child struggles in one area, the programme responds so that the child may receive help in that particular area. Reading Eggs is consistent with best practice literacy instruction offered in the classroom, and therefore acts to support and accelerate classroom literacy instruction.
My 7-year-old son has learning challenges in the area of reading and resists reading. He took to Reading Eggs immediately and has never complained about doing the programme. He loves the variety of activities and especially earning the characters. He is making good progress with his skills. Today we sat down to read a new book and I was having him read all the words that didn’t overwhelm him in length. He protested that this was a Level 2 reader and was very pleased when I told him that he is now reading at that level. I am very pleased with this programme and it is very affordable. Becky M.
This programme is Brilliant!!! It keeps my students motivated (hard to do with special needs students) and allows them to achieve success immediately. I would thoroughly recommend this programme to ALL Primary School teachers. Andrew Johnson, South Bunbury Education Support Centre