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Why Students Struggle With Reading (& What To Do If Your Child Is Falling Behind)

Reading is a skill that is valuable in many other areas of life.

Difficulty with reading is a common problem—about one in five people (including children) struggle with reading in some way. And since it is such an important skill, reading difficulties can cause trouble in other areas of learning, including writing, spelling, fluency, and comprehension. These barriers make it very hard for students to perform well in school and often lowers self-esteem.

If your child struggles with reading, it doesn’t mean he or she isn’t smart. There are many reasons why he or she may be struggling, and most have nothing to do with intelligence. Learning why your child is struggling can help him or her develop the skills needed to become a more skilled and confident reader.

Continue reading to learn why students struggle with reading, what causes reading problems, and how you can help your child improve his or her reading ability.

What Causes Reading Comprehension Problems?

Lack Of Support

Different children have different needs for support. Support includes the availability of reading materials, one-on-one support from educators, and additional learning accommodations. Without access to these resources, children who require additional help begin to fall behind and are unable to catch up, putting them at a major learning disadvantage.

Attention Disorder

Children who have difficulty with attention often have difficulty with reading comprehension. Students with an attention disorder (such as Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder) have trouble focusing on the material and frequently become distracted, leading to poor comprehension.

Difference In Learning Styles

There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ solution for learning—every student has a slightly different learning style that works best for him or her. Many children prefer one of the four main learning styles: Visual Learning, Auditory Learning, Kinaesthetic/Tactile Learning, and Read/Write Learning. When a student isn’t able to learn according to his or her learning style, it makes it difficult to build core skills—including reading.

Learning Disabilities

If your child is struggling to read, it may be an indication of an underlying learning disability. Reading disabilities are more common than many people think—between 15-20% of people (including children) struggle with some level of dyslexia. If your child isn’t performing as expected, avoids reading, and is stressed about learning, he or she may be struggling with a reading disability.

My Child Struggles With Reading—What Can I Do To Help?

  1. Explore Different Reading Materials
  2. For a child who has difficulty reading, traditional books often seem intimidating. Cater to your child’s interests by using different formats such as graphic novels, comics, recipe books, magazines, and audiobooks. This is also a great opportunity to adapt reading to your child’s preferred learning style so he or she can build confidence in his or her ability.

  3. Motivate And Reward Success
  4. Children who struggle to read often lack confidence. Celebrate small successes, be patient, and encourage your child to keep going—especially at times when he or she becomes frustrated or stressed. If your child knows he or she has full support from you, he or she is more likely to continue trying. 

  5. Work On Active Listening Skills
  6. Listening plays a huge role in reading ability. Good listening skills help with phonetics and fluency—both of which are key to developing reading skills. Build your child’s listening skills by playing audiobooks, age-appropriate podcasts, or reading aloud together. Ask your child questions about what he or she heard to encourage deeper thought about the topic and develop better comprehension.

  7. Read Aloud
  8. Encourage your child to read aloud to improve phonetics and fluency. When practising, avoid books that are too difficult or challenging. Pick materials that are suited to your child’s current reading level (or just slightly above it) to build skills and boost confidence.

  9. Explore Individual Education Plans
  10. Individual Education Plans (IEPs) are accommodations, program modifications, and/or alternative programs that are designed to meet the needs of a student. These plans are put in place to help students achieve goals that are beyond his or her current skill level. Connect with your child’s teacher/educator to discuss how an Individual Education Plan can set your child up for success.

  11. Consider Tutoring
  12. A reading tutor is a great addition to your child’s learning plan. It is an excellent way to build confidence, improve comprehension, and prepare your child for the demands of school. Contact your Oxford Learning location to learn more about reading tutoring.

    Take Action If Your Child Is Having Reading Difficulties

    If you suspect your child is having difficulty with reading, don’t wait to see if he or she improves on his or her own—it can be an even bigger challenge to catch up. The tips above are the first steps toward helping improve your child’s reading ability so he or she can achieve success.

    Explore our other reading-related resources:

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