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When Kids Struggle with Reading

Updated: May 23, 2020

Father and son

When children are young, parents are constantly on the lookout for signs of learning. From an infant rolling over to a toddler saying “mama,” from preschoolers taking turns to mastering t-ball, it’s easy for parents to compare their child to others the same age. How about reading? Some kids learn reading earlier, but many pick up skills more slowly. If you see your child struggling with reading, check with his or her teacher. Talk about what you’re seeing. Ask if extra help is needed. Make a plan for the future.

These are unusual times. For now, it may be just you and your child. What can you do NOW to make a difference for your student next month, in the fall, or as they move forward in school?

Be Positive

In all likelihood, your child WILL learn to read given lots of time and encouragement. In the meantime, notice all the things your child does well. Maybe their strengths are in art, athletics, or just being a terrific person. Take time to encourage those areas and boost their confidence. Here’s an article that will help you feel positive in a difficult time.

Grandparent reading to grandkids

Read Aloud

While developing those all-important independent skills is critical, a love of reading won’t be developed by poring over words and phonics books. “Easy Readers” often aren’t very entertaining stories; their goal is to group words and teach basic skills. What to do? The folks at Scholastic share a frequent recommendation: read aloud together. Parents are not only allowed but encouraged to with kids every day, for as long or as short a time as they can enjoy it. Find GREAT stories, FUN characters, ENGAGING plots, and WORTHWHILE endings. Need help? Librarians are just a phone call away!

Identify Gaps

Which reading skills does your child find most difficult? Do you have a good understanding of what skills they’ll need to learn? Becky Spence, a homeschool parent, shares clear and easy-to-understand information on her website, “This Reading Mama.” What’s a phoneme? Do phonics matter? What are words families? Can my child ‘blend sounds?’ Get started finding the information gaps your child faces and plan ways to address those first.

Mom and daughter embracing

How about a game?

Maybe your efforts to help kids memorize and practice isn’t working. Try turning reading into a game! The folks at have gathered the best online reading games for ages 3-6, 6-10, and 10+ into one easy-to-use site. From PBS to Read with Phonics, from FunBrain Reading to Khan Academy, you’ll find a little of everything plus some pointers to sites for parents.

Relaxing Really Matters

With so much pressure on you as a parent, it’s easy to feel anxious and upset. Your kids feel your stress and get anxious too. Maybe it’s time to put the schoolwork aside and just have some fun. Play a little or a LOT! Who you ARE with your children matters so much more than what you are able to teach them. Try these tips from Real Simple to stop, breathe, and enjoy today for what it is. This strange time won’t last forever, but what you say to your kids and do can make lasting memories. Make sure they’re happy ones.

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