Steps a Parent Can Take to Help Their Struggling Reader

By: Joelle Brummitt-Yale (BA in English and a M.Ed. in Middle Grades Language Arts)

Every parent wants what’s best for his or her child. We all know how important reading ability is and therefore we want our children to succeed at reading. When children have difficulty with reading parents can become frustrated because they want to help them but do not know how.

If your school-aged child is having trouble with reading here are some steps you can take to help his or her progress:

Observe your child’s reading behaviors

In order to develop a plan for helping your child with reading you must first identify where the difficulty lies. For several days, observe your child’s behavior when it is time to read. Conduct reading time the way you always do in your household, but during these particular sessions focus on what your child does rather than what he/she is reading. After he/she is done reading, make detailed notes about his/her behavior. Some of the questions you might want to ask yourself as you are observing your child are:

  • How does your child react when you tell your child it is time to read a book? Does your child avoid reading? Is your child nervous? Is he/she hesitant? Do behavior problems increase?
  • What happens when your child begins reading? Does he/she have trouble staying focused on the text? Does your child read slowly or too fast? Does he/she struggle to “sound out” or identify words? Does your child misunderstand or not understand what he/she is reading?
  • Does your child’s attitude towards reading and ability to read a text change based on the reading material? Are certain topics more interesting to him/her than others? Do pictures seem to help or hinder your child’s comprehension? Are certain formats (ie. books vs. magazines) easier for your child to read?

Schedule a meeting with your child’s regular classroom teacher.

More often than not, if you are noticing that your child is having difficulty with reading his/her classroom teacher is also. Schedule a parent-teacher conference to discuss your child’s reading ability. This does not have to be during the traditional “parent-teacher conference time” of the school year. Teachers are more than willing to make time to discuss your concerns with you at any point during the school year. When you come to the conference, bring your observations of the child’s reading behaviors at home with you. Be sure to share these as well as the “reading routines” you have at home with the teacher. Together, you can develop a plan for helping your child. Using your first-hand knowledge of your child’s abilities and personality and the teacher’s relationship with the child and his/her expertise in education to make a plan for working with your child. This may involve some at home reading practice or modifications in your child’s classroom instruction. Also, set a timeline for re-evaluating your child’s progress. Plan to meet again or talk via email or the phone to discuss what is working (or what is not working) for your child.

Request evaluation of your child by a specialist.

While a good many children are able to make progress in their reading development through a focused intervention planned and carried out by the teacher and parent, some need additional support from specialists trained in assisting those with specific reading difficulties. If your child continues to struggle with reading, ask for your child to be assessed by a specialist. Talk with your child’s teacher about the school’s procedures for requesting evaluation.