How to Support your Child when they Struggle with Reading

How to Support your Child when they Struggle with Reading

By: Molly Hankla, MA, BCBA

Many children struggle with learning to read, or dyslexia. Dyslexia is a neurobiologically-based learning disability which typically causes specific difficulties in reading accuracy and reading fluency. Although estimations for the prevalence for dyslexia vary widely, most research indicates that around 10-15% of individuals have dyslexia or other specific learning disabilities which impact their reading ability. If your child is struggling with reading, know that they are not alone, and there are many avenues you can take as a parent to support them! So what should you do if your child is struggling with reading, or if they have been diagnosed with dyslexia? Below are a few recommendations for how to support your child’s reading journey.

1. Be Patient and Gentle

Any time you are working with your child on a difficult task such as reading, it’s important to be patient and gentle with them. The more difficulties your child has, the longer it’s going to take them to complete an activity, and the more practice it’s going to take for them to reach a point of fluency. Preparing for this on the front end will help you keep your expectations reasonable, and meet your child where they are with respect to their current skill set. Remind yourself to stay gentle with your child, not pushing them to move or learn faster than they are currently able. Show them that you are there to help and support them through their learning process, as long as it may take.

2. Seek Out Accommodations

Accommodations refer to variations in the way that work is presented or completed. Accommodations include modifications in learning or task completion time, instruction type, ways for children to respond, and/or the amount of work required. Accommodations are commonly provided in school settings, but you can also practice using similar accommodations at home when reading with your child. If your child is struggling to read, some important accommodations to consider are:

  • text-to-speech technology
  • audio books
  • large print
  • reading glasses
  • early access to schoolwork

Text-to-speech and audio books both provide avenues for a child to take in written information auditorily rather than through reading. When used in conjunction with the printed text, it can also help speed up the rate of reading. Using large print can help reduce distractions and limit the amount of material to attend to on a page. It also helps the brain process what is being read more easily. Finally, early access to materials can allow your child additional time to practice reading and decoding the work first, before focusing on comprehension of the material itself. If you are interested in how these types of accommodations could be provided to your child in a school setting, be sure to check out “What is an IEP? A Quick Guide for Parents Before Your IEP Meeting” and “Questions to Ask in Your Child’s IEP Meeting.” You can also contact us to allow us assist you through school consultation.

3. Show Your Support

It can be emotionally taxing for children with dyslexia or other learning disabilities to practice reading or other skills that are challenging for them. Show your child support by empathizing with their struggles. Explain that you understand how difficult the process is for them and that you are there for them through the process. As your child is reading, make sure to praise their effort, attitude, and perseverance in addition to the reading itself. This might sound like, “I know how tough that story was to read- there were lots of new words! I’m so proud of how you stuck with it.” For more on how you can approach teaching your child using a coaching mindset, check out “Positive Parenting Defined: Coaching Your Child For Resiliency and Happiness.”

4. Practice, Practice, Practice!

Like learning any new skill, reading takes practice. Carve out time every day to practice different reading activities with your child. Vary the types of activities you do, so your child has plenty of opportunities to learn to read in different modalities. For example, you can read aloud as your child follows along on the page, or you and your child can alternate reading line by line. You might also consider reading the passage first to provide your child with the opportunity to understand the context, then have them read the passage for a second time, focusing on decoding. Ask your child’s teacher for additional materials to reinforce learning in the classroom. For example, you may be able to get word lists in advance to make flash cards to read together, or your can listen to an audiobook together before your child reads the book in class. The more you practice together, the more comfortable your child will become with reading, and the more motivated they will be to read and learn.

If you’re interested in other tips for teaching children who have difficulties with learning or are struggling to keep up in their learning environment, make sure to check out “8 Teaching Strategies for Children Who Learn Differently!”

At FCI, we love sharing our favorite books with clients & families, which is why we are so grateful to work with Bookshop to share books with you! We read with our clients at the clinic regularly, and this series if a favorite for our kiddos who are learning to read! If you make any purchase at Bookshop within 48 hours of using our link below, we receive 10% of your purchase, which we use to buy more books to use in session with our kiddos. It’s a win-win!


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