In this article you will discover the 7 most common reading problems and how to fix them, as well as an explanation of the underlying conditions behind some of them. 

By the end, you’ll have plenty of great ideas, exercises, and resources to help your child or student progress in their journey toward developing a love of reading.

Common Reading Problems and How to Fix Them

Reading is a fundamental skill that opens doors to knowledge and creativity, but a large number of children face challenges and common reading problems when learning to read. 

Many of these problems are a lot more common than most parents realize. Thankfully, the majority of these issues are hurdles that can be overcome, rather than problems that will plague these students for life.

What are Signs of the Most Common Reading Problems?

Usually, it’s easy to tell when a child has a reading problem, but sometimes the signs are harder to notice.

Children with common reading problems usually exhibit some of the following issues. Take a look at the list below and see if any of them apply to your child or student.

  • They sound out every word, even if they have recently read the same word.
  • They don’t remember the sounds of the letters.
  • They read words in the wrong order.
  • They substitute similar-looking words, such as house for horse.
  • They ignore punctuation when reading.
  • They lose their place on the page, skip lines, or reread lines.
  • They skip small words such as a, the, to, of, were, and from.
  • They add extra letters in a word when reading. For example, they may read tail as trail. The misread word often has the same beginning and ending letter.
  • They substitute words with similar meanings when reading stories. For example, they may read said instead of shouted.
  • They make up part of the story based on the illustrations or context clues instead of reading the actual words on the page.
  • They display poor reading comprehension.
  • They avoid reading. This is a sign that they aren’t confident in their reading ability.

The 7 Most Common Reading Problems and How to Fix Them

1. Dyslexia

Problem: Dyslexia is the most well-known reading disorder. It affects a child’s ability to decode words, leading to difficulties in reading fluently. Children with dyslexia have normal intelligence, but they struggle to make connections between letters and sounds. This makes it hard for them to sound out words, understand written words, and name objects quickly.

Solution: Early diagnosis and intervention are crucial for children with dyslexia. Specialized tutoring, multisensory approaches, and the use of assistive technology, like text-to-speech software, can help these children improve their reading skills. Thankfully, there are a range of products, such as All About Reading, that have proven to be very effective for children with dyslexia.

Common Reading Problems and How to Fix Them

2. Attention Difficulties

Problem: Some children may have difficulty sustaining their attention during reading, making it hard to focus on the text. This can be due to conditions such as ADHD, high energy levels, lack of interest, or simply natural disposition.

Solution: Create a quiet, comfortable reading environment and set realistic reading goals for your child. Gradually increase reading time and incorporate breaks if needed. For children with diagnosed attention disorders, it may be beneficial to explore techniques such as mindfulness and meditation to improve focus.

3. Phonemic Awareness is One of the Most Common Reading Problems

Problem: Some children struggle with phonemic awareness, which is the ability to recognize and manipulate individual sounds in words.

Solution: Encourage phonemic awareness through activities such as rhyming games, word segmentation, and sound-recognition exercises. Practice with phonics-based reading materials can also be beneficial. Additionally, consider using online resources and educational apps designed to improve phonemic awareness. The same programs that help students with dyslexia, such as All About Reading, are highly recommended.

Common Reading Problems and How to Fix Them

4. Vocabulary Deficits

Problem: Limited vocabulary can hinder a child’s comprehension and reading fluency. This can make it seem as if the child is suffering from other conditions.

Solution: Make sure to incorporate interactive word games, word-of-the-day activities, and flash-card exercises in your routine. These activities can make vocabulary development fun and engaging. We also recommend reading a wide variety of books and discussing new words. Regularly reading together and explaining the meaning of unfamiliar words can help children build their vocabulary. 

5. Comprehension Issues are Definitely One of the Most Common Reading Problems

Problem: Some children can decode and understand individual words but have difficulty understanding longer sentences, paragraphs, and books.

Solution: Foster comprehension by asking questions about the text, summarizing passages, and discussing the main ideas. Encourage your child to visualize what they read to enhance their understanding. Consider providing diverse reading materials, including newspapers, magazines, and non-fiction books, to expose them to various text structures and writing styles.

6. Lack of Motivation

Problem: If children don’t find reading enjoyable, they are less likely to practice and improve their skills.

Solution: Find books that cater to your child’s interests and passions. Joining book clubs or visiting the library together can also make reading a more engaging and social activity. Encourage your child to set reading goals and reward them when they achieve them, creating a positive association with reading.

Common Reading Problems and How to Fix Them

7. Limited Exposure to Reading

Problem: Children who are not exposed to reading materials or experiences at home may face difficulties when learning to read.

Solution: Surround your child with books and reading materials. Make regular visits to the library and allow your child to choose their own books. Read aloud to them regularly, and lead by example in demonstrating the value of reading as a lifelong skill. Consider organizing family reading nights to promote a culture of reading within your household.

There are several more common reading reading problems including auditory processing, vision and perceptual problems, and poor working memory and we will address those in future articles.

In the meantime, here are some unique resources from All About Reading which is a comprehensive program that solves common reading problems and empowers learners to become strong, fluent readers.

Resources for Children With Reading Problems

All About Reading is an award-winning program that starts with essential pre-reading skills and continues on to teach all five key components of reading. This multisensory, incremental program contains everything your student needs to become a fluent reader for life.

The Power of the Orton-Gillingham Approach: Learn all about this powerful, time-tested approach and how it can help children with reading problems overcome their difficulties.

10 Tips for Reaching Your Struggling Learner: This article contains 10 specific tips and teaching methods that can be extremely effective for students with a wide range of reading problems.

How to Solve Letter Reversal Problems: If your child or student confuses certain letters, like b and d or n and u, then you won’t want to miss the tips and methods outlined in this article.

Learning Ally is a nonprofit organization that helps dyslexic, blind, and visually impaired students build their reading skills. They offer audiobooks that help kids experience the many benefits of consuming text, but without the struggle of reading.

Gil Christenberry is a proud member of the All About Learning Press team. As an avid writer and reader, he loves helping struggling learners achieve their potential and unlock the wonderful worlds of literature and education.

All About Reading is the gold medal recipient of the Parent and Teacher Choice Award.