How to overcome your child’s reading difficulties

How to spot if your child has a problem learning to read and resources to help

How to overcome your child's reading difficulties

Children take longer to establish basic reading and writing skills in English than in any other European language, because of the complex syllable structure and inconsistent spelling systems.

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However, if your child is really struggling with reading, there may be a specific problem. Reading difficulties occur on a continuum – there is a wide range of children who experience reading difficulties, from those with a learning disability to those without a diagnoses but who need targeted help. Many parents worry that their child has a problem with their reading. However, nearly all five-to seven-year olds confuse the letters b and d or p and q.

If your child is seven, or has been at school for two years, and has difficulty blending sounds into words, is unsure what sound a letter or combination of letters makes and has great difficulty spelling simple regular words, there may be a problem. Remember, though, that all children learn to read at different rates.

How do I know if there’s a problem?

If your child finds it more difficult than his peers in pronouncing or rhyming words or in comprehending meaning, or they shy away from reading all together, there could be a problem.

Children who have had repeated ear infections, glue ear or have had a speech delay during their early years can have trouble learning to read. These children may just lag behind their peers a bit and need more time to learn certain things. Children with learning disabilities find it difficult to learn a particular skill and a large percentage of children with learning disabilities (around two thirds) have problems learning to read.

What are learning disabilities?

Dyslexia – is a learning disability that impairs a person’s ability to read and comprehend words. It affects one in ten of the population. When they are reading, dyslexic children may have problems blending letters together and they may miss out words, or add extra words. They may also be hesitant and laboured in reading, especially when reading aloud. For further information visit The British Dyslexia Association

Irlen Syndrome – is often confused with dyslexia. Children complain of letters falling off a page, or ‘fizzing’. Laying a coloured, transparent sheet over text can make a huge improvement. For more information go to Irlen UK.

What should I do?

When a child has difficulty reading it can be stressful and emotional for a parent. Work with your child’s teacher to understand and pinpoint the problem and instead of focussing on the negatives build on his, or her, strengths.

Teachers can advise you on the targeted reading schemes available at your child’s school. The National Literacy Trust provides resources for parents and children. Reading Recovery is a well-established intervention scheme for children with reading difficulties. The programme provides daily half-hour sessions with specially trained Reading Recovery teachers for six-year-olds who are in the bottom 20% of their class in terms of reading.

If you think that your child has a specific learning disability it is important that you work with the school to have your child assessed. Mencap is a valuable source of resources for parents and teachers.

Resources to help overcome reading difficulties in children

  • Reading Eggs – An award-winning, research-based programme that makes learning to read easy and fun for children aged 2–13 years. It teaches children to read with a comprehensive range of online reading lessons, books, activities and games.
  • GoLexic – A digital programme that helps parents and children overcome reading difficulties and dyslexia together, using a multi-sensory approach and leading speech recognition technology for a very intuitive learning experience in only 15 minutes a day (the app delivers a personalised 15 minute session for a focused and effective training that children can do by themselves.) GoLexic is available on iPad.
  • LeapStart by Leapfrog – An interactive learning system that includes a stylus that reads invisible dots on compatible books and activity sets, triggering questions, challenges, songs, jokes and more. With multiple book levels to progress from preschool to first grade with 25+ activity books including two Learn to Read book sets that all work on LeapStart. Requires a computer with an Internet connection to work.
  • Made by Dyslexia – A global charity website – led by successful dyslexics to help the world understand, value and support dyslexia. Partnered with Microsoft it offers free, online, training and includes easy to implement strategies used in the world’s leading dyslexic schools.
  • Handy Spelling – Stationery products to make literacy easier – with handy products (rulers, pencils) to give an instant, visual reminder of the most frequently confused words. Each product is designed to be clear, colourful and useful whether a child is dyslexic, learning English as a foreign language or simply hasn’t yet mastered spelling and grammar.
  • BOB Books Reading Magic  – Start your child reading with this phonics-based interactive game. With simple text, fun activities and full-colour animations, this is a great starting place for struggling readers. Bob Books is available for iPhone and iPad. 
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{Images from the Junior Archive}