Is your child having trouble learning to read, or wanting to learn to read? Do you feel
overwhelmed, or not know where to begin? Youʼre not alone! Here are eight tips to
help you create a plan of attack to help your child overcome his or her reading troubles
as quickly as possible.
Eight Steps to Help Your Child Succeed
1. The ﬁrst step in overcoming a problem, is recognizing that there is one. Your child
may have less than desirable grades in this subject, complain and throw tantrums when
itʼs time to read, or just plain refuse to read at all. Sometimes, children mispronounce
words and keep reading, or canʼt retell in their own words what they have just read.
These are all signs that your child may be struggling in reading.
2. Underlying issues are sometimes the cause of difﬁculties in school. Sometimes
parents and teachers donʼt notice that a child may have vision or hearing issues.
Luckily, this is the easiest area to investigate and solve!
If your child holds books either too closely, too far away, rubs eyes while reading, or
complains of a headache, these may be signs of a vision issue. A vision test by an eye
doctor will give you the answer your need. If your child has difﬁculty pronouncing
words, reproducing sounds (like letter sounds), or doesnʼt readily respond to verbal
directions well, this may indicate a hearing issue. A hearing test may be beneﬁcial. If
your child has neither a vision issue nor a hearing issue, move onto step three.
3. Make an appointment with your childʼs classroom or reading teacher. Ask for
speciﬁc examples of how your child struggles in reading. Some questions to ask:
•Have letters and sounds been mastered?
•Are sight words recognized?
•Are sounds blended together properly?
•How ﬂuently does my child read?
•Does he understand what he has just read (reading comprehension)?
•What grade level is my child reading at? (Ex. 2.2 is 2nd grade, second month or 3.4
is third grade, fourth month)
•What grade level should he be at?
•How can we work as a team to get him up to grade-level?
During this appointment, ask for recommended materials to help your child at home.
The teacher may be able to provide you with extra worksheets, a list of recommended
materials, and tips to work with your child in that speciﬁc area. If your child is two or
more grade levels below, he may qualify for help during school hours from a reading
specialist. Your child would need an evaluation through the school to determine this.
4. Now that you know more speciﬁcs about your childʼs area of difﬁculty, and the grade
level that he is reading at you will be more prepared to help at home. One of the most
important steps to take in helping your child is to ﬁnd appropriate reading material
that motivates your child to read. A book that is of high interest to your child and is
at the correct reading level can work wonders! Here are some tips for ﬁnding the perfect
•Ask your childʼs teacher or a childrenʼs librarian for help in determining appropriate
books for your childʼs reading level.
•You may also be able to ﬁnd lists of grade level appropriate books , but itʼs important to
know which level your child is reading at. Ex. If your third grader is reading at second
grade level, choose second grade level books.
•Let your child choose the books within the suggested reading level. You may ﬁnd
that your child is really into Magic Treehouse stories, Nancy Drew mysteries, or classic
tales about Ramona and Beezus. If you discover a book that works, suggest that your
child continue reading the series!
•Occasionally provide reading materials other than books. If comic books, or animal
magazines are high-interest, consider subscribing! Your child may really look forward to
reading a favorite magazine each month.
*Note: Popular character books containing multiple levels (1, 2, 3) are generally not very helpful for
struggling readers. Itʼs best to ﬁnd a book with one level that is a good match for your child.
5. With a good book in hand, the next step is to practice reading. Itʼs vitally important to
listen to your child read aloud. A ﬁfteen to twenty minute daily commitment is a
worthy investment towards increasing your childʼs reading proﬁciency. As you listen to
your child read, you will be able to give encouragement and on-the-spot guidance for
stumbles. Here are some pointers:
• Be calm and reassuring while your child reads, even if he becomes frustrated.
• Ask questions during the read-aloud to ensure that your child is reading for
• Help your child sound out difﬁcult words.
• Give prompts for repeated words that are difﬁcult. (Ex. What was his name again?)
• Give encouragement when a passage was well read.
• If you ﬁnd that he makes too many mistakes, or has to sound out too many words
(typically more than 5 per page) the level may be too difﬁcult. Choose an easier book
in the future.
• If your child breezes through a book, provide something a little more challenging next
6. Sometimes children require a little motivation to tackle an area of difﬁculty. It may be
helpful to set up a reward system. You can establish the guidelines by the number of
books read, or by the reading level. For example, 3 books read per week equals one
family pizza night, one can of soda, or one dollar. Or, if your child goes from a 1.2 to a
1.3 or reading level, a special privilege can be earned (extra computer time, a
sleepover, etc.) Whatever the reward, make it something your child wants and make it
easy to achieve! Smaller, more frequent rewards will be more motivating that one big
one that takes 6 months to get.
7. Keep your expectations realistic as reading skills take time to develop. An average
student will improve one grade level per year. If your struggling reader makes any kind
improvement, give ample praise and reward and keep plugging away!
8. If you ﬁnd that your child does not improve after lots of reading at home (say one
month of consistent daily practice), you may need to seek outside help. A retired
teacher, reading specialist, or a tutoring center can help your child for a fee. Ask for
referrals from classroom teachers, or other parents. Hire someone with experience in
If money is a concern, you may be able to share a tutor with another student of similar
ability. You might also try to obtain a discount for paying cash, or pre-paying the month.
In conclusion, it takes a team effort for children to succeed in any endeavor, where itʼs
school, sports, or music. When parents, teacher, and student are aligned to a mission,
much more can be accomplished, than one trying to succeed alone. A student with the
right support will eventually be able to overcome obstacles, even reading!
Julie Rebboah has been a professional educator since 1998. She has been an Early Reading Intervention instructor, an English language development teacher, and a private tutor. Julie wrote Magic Letters; The Keys to the World of Words and Magic Words; Discovering the Adventure of Reading out of a need to provide materials to support and extend learning in her diverse classroom. http://www.lightningbuglearning.com