How to Help a Child Struggling with Reading

How to Help a Child Struggling with Reading

Reading struggles—and the reasons for them—may be different for each child. Parents may be concerned that their child’s struggles are related to a learning disorder like dyslexia. However, sometimes a child may simply fall behind their peers or take longer to read proficiently.

When learning disorders have been ruled out, and if a child doesn’t qualify for additional intervention at school, parents may be on their own to help their struggling reader.

Thankfully, there are fun ways to help children become better readers at home; here are 10 ideas on how to help a child struggling with reading.

1. Play Reading Games

Depending on the age of the child, reading games may be a fun way to boost reading skills. Reading games can be apps or actual physical games. There are reading app games that focus on sight words, and these are a great option for early readers who need help with word recognition.

Heading to the store or on another errand? Take your child on a sight word scavenger hunt. Write down a list of all the sight words your child is expected to recognize and encourage them to find each word on the trip. They can look anywhere: signs, posters, magazines, etc. Once they find the word, have them mark it off on the list. If every word is discovered, there could be a prize for the accomplishment!

Older children who struggle with comprehension can play games, too. Parents can create a reading comprehension ball out of a beach ball. How do you make a reading comprehension ball? Simply write a comprehension prompt on each section of the ball. Toss the ball to each child and the prompt that faces up is what they need to discuss. Parents also can buy balls at online sites like Amazon. Here are a few questions to write on the ball:

  • Who is the main character?
  • Where does the story take place?
  • What are the characters doing in the story?
  • When does the story take place?

Think about the prompts that parents would like their children to discuss. Anything can be written on the ball. The goal is to encourage kids to think deeper about the story and to help parents gauge their understanding.


2. Encourage Kids to Read Every Day

Teachers usually recommend that kids read 20 minutes each day (or 20 pages, if a child is a fast reader). Children who read regularly may be exposed to more words over time, helping them boost their vocabulary. However, reading everyday also may help a child become a more confident or proficient reader.

If a child struggles to read, they may avoid reading. Children who avoid picking up a book may need additional motivation. Parents may want to set up a reading rewards system to encourage regular reading. Or parents may read with a child, helping them sound out words or asking questions related to the plot and characters.

3. Read as a Family

If children don’t see their parents reading, they may not perceive reading as something that is fun or necessary. Not reading regularly might cause children to fall behind. Children learn by example, and, if parents read regularly and for fun, children may be more excited to read.

Create a family reading schedule. Every day, choose a time when technology is turned off and the books become the main entertainment. Some families may decide to even start a family book club and read the same book together. However, even if children and parents aren’t on the same page (literally) and read different novels, books or stories, reading together in one place could still be a great bonding experience. Gather in a living room or rec area and read for 20 or 30 minutes. Parents and children also could set reading goals related to page numbers or chapters.

After everyone has finished reading, talk about your books. Everyone should share what’s happening in their story and why they like (or don’t like) a character.


4. Listen to the Story

Some children may enjoy hearing the story as they follow along and read the text. Your local library could have audio books available for checkout or download. Other platforms and media sites also could offer audio books; costs may vary.

Whether or not an audio book will benefit a reader that struggles with comprehension may be up for debate; Time referenced a study that looked at listening only to an audio book, reading just the book and reading and listening, and comprehension skills weren’t notably different across groups.

However, if a child feels more confident listening to the book as they read—or if they simply like listening to the story as they read—then parents may decide to incorporate audio books during daily reading.

How to Help a Child Struggling with Reading

5. Hire a Tutor

For children who are behind their peers but who don’t qualify for additional help or intervention at school, parents may decide to hire a private tutor. A child’s school could have recommendations for tutors. Some schools also offer additional help from teachers after school, and these sessions may be open to all students and serve as small-group options for additional enrichment.

Parents interested in hiring a private tutor should research different tutoring programs, companies and individuals offering their services. Make sure that all individuals are vetted and trustworthy; tutoring companies typically require tutors to pass a background check. Prices for tutors may vary.

How to Help a Child Struggling with Reading

6. Go on a Reading Field Trip

Parents may sit with their child and help them sound out words or ask questions related to comprehension. They also may set a family reading time, download audio books and even hire a tutor. Parents can check off every item on the list to help their child read proficiently and better understand what they read.

However, reading should be fun. Kids of all ages shouldn’t just view reading as an assignment but as an adventure. Embrace the joy of the story and incorporate unique experiences that complement the story your child is reading.

Take your child on a reading field trip to a place featured in the book. Not every parent can visit a major historic site, and reading field trips don’t need to include a hefty travel budget. If a child is reading about the Civil War, take them to a local museum that features an exhibit. Is the book about an animal? Visit the zoo. While reading field trips might not help a child with reading in a traditional sense, these journeys could get them excited about stories and books.

7. Cook a Reading Recipe

Reading field trips let your child experience something from the book—they can kind of step into the shoes of the character. However, many books also feature specific foods and meals, and these tasty experiences also can add flavor to the reading journey.

If you can’t take a child on a reading field trip, then cook up a reading recipe. Following a recipe could be a great way to help children practice reading (and math!), too. Make a special meal, dessert or side dish found in the book. Eating food from the story could help a child immerse in the reading experience…with their taste buds!

8. Watch the Movie

After a child finishes their book, think about watching the movie version of the story…if the movie exists. This is a great way to help children think about what they read. Often, the movie will vary from the book. Have the child talk about the differences between the book and the movie. How did the plots differ? Did the characters look like your child pictured them? Were any events left out of the movie? What did your child like better? The book or the movie?


9. Check Your Child’s Reading Level

If a child is trying to read a book beyond their reading level, they might struggle. One reason that parents might think their child is struggling to read could be tied to the fact that their child may be reading something beyond their understanding. Not sure about a child’s reading level? Talk to your child’s teacher, as they can best advise you on the appropriate level for your child.

10. Use a Reading App

Reading apps and reading programs can help a child gain proficiency. These apps are typically designed as instructional tools. Apps like Readability include a built-in AI tutor that helps guide a child as they read; the tutor also asks questions to test comprehension. Readability includes leveled content that is appropriate for each reader; as a child gains proficiency, lessons become harder. However, children don’t level up until they demonstrate understanding. Stories on Readability feature colorful illustrations and interactive features so kids are never bored.

If you follow these suggestions, you’ll help your child improve their reading skills and catch up in no time!

Ameeta Jain

My latest project is truly where my happy place is, helping children. I’m a mom to two amazing souls who are my inspiration to be better, do better and strive for more. As a technology entrepreneur, I’ve had the privilege to contribute to the advancement of humanity through tech.

My passion has always been to ensure the end user of our products enjoys huge benefits. We are taking the world of education by storm with industry first reading and comprehension learning technology that levels the playing field for all kids. With over 20 years of tech experience and an army of child development professionals, reading specialists, and experts in education, I created Readability.