Help for Struggling Readers: Part 1 (Phonics)

One of the primary reasons that children don’t enjoy reading is because reading can be very hard.  A child that struggles to read the words on the page cannot fully immerse himself in the story and therefore cannot truly enjoy the story.  If your child is struggling to read individual words, there are some ways that you can help.

Stretch Out the Words

Stretching out the words is an especially useful tool for beginning struggling readers.  When a child is first learning to read, they need to focus on the sound that each letter makes.  Have your child stretch out the word by saying each letter sound individually.  For example, in the word “cat”, your child would sound out each letter before putting the word together.  We often do this when children are first learning to read, but the principle works even for longer more complicated words.  You can make this a little more fun to practice by letting your child stretch out a fun object like a slinky or a rubber band while they are stretching out the words!

Review Phonics Rules

Remember the letters of our alphabet make the basics sounds, but they also can make different sounds if combined in different ways.  Vowels can make short or long sounds, two letters can blend together to make a new sound (like “sh”), and some letters make hard or soft sounds (like “c” and “g”).  These differences can be confusing for struggling readers.  Choose one simple phonics rule to review with your child every day. (If they are really struggling, you may want to review a rule each week.)  You can find a list of the most basic phonics rules along with explanations and example here.

Read and Reread to Your Child

Reading to struggling readers is so important.  You want them to understand that reading can be interesting once they can sound out the words.  You want them to feel the pleasure of being pulled into a story so far that you don’t want to put it down.  That love is what will drive them to want to read on their own.  They key to this is simply reading to them.  Let them choose the books you read out loud.  Do they ask to read the same story every day?  Then read the same story every day.  The repetition will have the added bonus of reinforcing in their minds that the words don’t change, and they can be figured out!

While it may be discouraging to watch your child struggle to learn to read, keep up the hard work.  Keep making them stretch out those words and going over phonics rules.  Keep reading to them every day.  Eventually, the sounds will click, and your child will be reading fluently!  In the second part of this topic, we will discuss another important part of reading that children struggle with: sight words.  What tricks do you have for helping struggling readers?

Photo by: Chrissy Johnson1

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