How to Help a Child Who is Struggling With Reading

Tips for helping a child who is struggling with reading

Are you worried about your child’s reading skills? There are programs inside and outside of the classroom that can help.

Let’s face it. Some children enjoy reading and diving into their favourite stories. Others, would rather do chores, eat vegetables…anything other than cracking open a book. Could there be a bigger issue?

Maybe you spotted early warning signs that your child was having difficulty with reading and met with the teacher to make a plan to support your child.  Perhaps, despite these efforts, the latest report card shows your child continues to struggle with reading. Are their skills still not coming along as quickly or smoothly as you expected? What do you do now?

Don’t worry, all is not lost. Here are a few next steps you may want to consider to help your child’s reading.

What to do if a child has trouble with reading

Have a follow up conversation with the teacher at school: Most schools have extra help available for students who are struggling. Schools often begin with a reading assessment which will give teachers an overview of your child’s strengths and weaknesses in different components of the reading process and will suggest what kind of intervention may be needed.

Reading intervention program: This can take the form of extra support where children work in a small group setting with a reading specialist who is trained to deliver a specific remedial reading program. It can be done inside the classroom or through withdrawal support services, where students step out of the class to join a group and work on specific skill development.

Interventions before the age of 8 are always the most effective

Outside support services for struggling readers: Some families make this choice if there is a waiting list for support programs at school or if the teacher feels a child needs further support.

I usually recommend finding a private special education teacher. They are more likely to be well-trained on the reading acquisition process and intervention techniques.

Consider pursuing a private psycho-educational assessment: This option involves completing a series of psychological and educational tests with a trained psychologist or psychological associate.  A full-scale assessment will provide deeper insight into a child’s learning profile. It will highlight their strengths and weakness as well as identify any learning disabilities or attentional issues which exist.

This can be a good next step if there is a family history of learning difficulties.  The earlier learning challenges are identified, the more effective intervention strategies can be.

You are your child’s best advocate

Sometimes an assessment will be performed by the school if the need is identified by the teacher.  In some boards, there can be a long wait list and parents choose to accelerate the process and have an assessment done privately.

Reading is the most fundamental skill.  It is the foundation on which all education rests. You are your child’s best advocate. If your child is struggling with their reading, pursue every bit of support you can, so that by the time they enter their junior years, they are reading to learn and no longer learning how to read.

Jennifer Anstiss

Jennifer Anstiss holds a Masters of Education in Literacy from Mount Saint Vincent University, specializing in the Early Intervention and Prevention of Learning Disabilites. She is also an active member of the Ontario College of Teachers. She has been trained in the delivery of Direct Instruction Programs and is a Certified Fast ForWord Practitioner. Jennifer's field experiences include over 15 years of private clinical practice and 10 years of Special Education Teaching for both the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board and Peel District School Board. She specializes in the design and implementation of remedial programs for students with Learning Disabilities and Attentional Issues within both public and private settings. Jennifer gives presentations to parents, professionals and community groups.

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