How to Help Children Who Have Difficulty Reading

If your child is having difficulty reading, it's an issue that deserves your attention. Helping your child involves a collaborative effort among your family and your child's school. That way, you can prevent the issue from becoming worse, as it can produce serious learning difficulties for children.
How to Help Children Who Have Difficulty Reading
Natalia Cobos Serrano

Written and verified by the social educator Natalia Cobos Serrano.

Last update: 06 November, 2022

The acquisition of language is a process that is unique for each and every child. And the same happens when it comes to learning to read, although this process is more complex. When children display a reading level that is below age-appropriate standards and fall behind their classmates, parents begin to worry. In this situation, the following question arises: How can I help my child who has difficulty reading?

In families with various children, it’s easy to observe how each child follows a unique rhythm for learning. For example, it’s common for one child to begin speaking at a certain age while another child starts at another. However, reading difficulties tend to be a greater cause for concern. This is because they have a direct influence on a child’s academic performance .

Stanley L. Swartz affirms that most children are successful when it comes to understanding the grammar system. However, 25% of students need additional support when it comes to understanding reading.

Elements in the teaching of literacy

In order to teach children who have difficulty reading, it’s important to keep in mind the elements that children must acquire:

  • Phonological awareness: This refers to the ability to work with the sounds that belong to oral language. In other words, children need to understand that written words can be spoken and that they possess sounds.
  • The correspondence between phonemes and graphemes: This is the relationship between the sounds of oral language (phonemes) and the letters of written language (graphemes).
  • Fluidity: This refers to the ability to read a text with precision and speed. Children must know how to recognize and comprehend words at the same time.
  • Vocabulary: When children reach comprehensive reading, it means they understand the words that appear in a text. This is because they make up part of the child’s vocabulary.
  • Comprehension of texts: This is the ability to capture the message of a text, to be able to remember it, and to communicate its meaning.
How to Help Children Who Have Difficulty Reading

Reading disorders

When children have difficulty reading, this can cause difficulties in learning as well. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean the problem requires treatment as a disorder.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) points out what constitutes a reading disorder: Reading disorders are diagnosed when a child’s reading is significantly below average according to his or her level of schooling. Juan Luis Castejón and Leandro Navas make a distinction between “children with difficulty reading” and “students with dyslexia.”

Children with difficulty reading are those students who have some issues when it comes to reading and understanding texts. This can have a variety of causes, which may be intellectual, emotional, or sociocultural in nature.

On the other hand, children with dyslexia have severe problems when it comes to reading. The origin of these problems may have to do with a neurodevelopment alteration. Dyslexia falls into the category of learning disabilities and is much more than having a hard time reading. Individuals with dyslexia may also have issues with memory or in space-time relations.

How to help children with difficulty reading

  • Maintain communication with your child’s school. The school will inform you regarding what activities you can conduct at home to improve your child’s reading. What’s more, your child’s school is responsible for providing all that’s necessary for evaluating and diagnosing your child’s reading level.
  • Help your child develop resilienceIn other words, your child needs to understand that he or she is capable of improving when it comes to reading. While some children have a harder time reading than their classmates, they can overcome their difficulties if they work hard.
  • Read frequently with your child. If your child has difficulty reading, practice together at home as much as possible. This can help to reduce discomfort and embarrassment. Spending time reading each day will give it a routine nature. Soon, reading will become more and more pleasant and familiar for your child.
  • Practice reading out loud with your child. The advantages of reading out loud to children are very valuable and numerous. It helps them become familiar with books, makes reading easier, broadens their vocabulary, and improves cognitive abilities.

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free”

– Frederick Douglass –

The benefits of helping children who have difficulty reading

Finally, reading doesn’t just provide us with information, but also education. In her book Cómo hacer hijos lectores (“How to raise child readers”), Carmen Lomas establishes a long list of the benefits of reading. For example, she mentions that reading helps in the development of language. Children who read have more fluent language and better oral and written expression. Reading also increases vocabulary and improves spelling.

How to Help Children Who Have Difficulty Reading

Without a doubt, one of the most valuable benefits of reading is that it improves and enriches human relationships. Reading makes it easier for children to communicate their wishes and feelings.What’s more, it increases cultural wealth: A child who reads is a child that’s interested in knowing and thinking. Lastly, reading helps develop children’s ability to analyze. In other words, it encourages critical thought.

For all of these reasons, it’s clear how important it is to detect reading problems as soon as possible. Not only do they affect children’s academic performance and self-esteem, but t hey also directly influence their future.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • American Psychological Association. Resilence guide for parents and teachers.
  • Castejón, J.L y Navas, L. (2011). Dificultades y trastornos del aprendizaje y del desarrollo en infantil y primaria. Editorial Club Universitario. España: Alicante.
  • Gutiérrez, R., & Díez Mediavilla, A. E. (2018). Conciencia fonológica y desarrollo evolutivo de la escritura en las primeras edades. Educación XX1: revista de la Facultad de Educación.
  • Lorences Vega, M. R. (2021). Desarrollo de la conciencia fonológica a través de la modalidad de enseñanza virtual.
  • Lomas, C. (2002). Cómo hacer hijos lectores. Ediciones palabra. España: Madrid.
  • Lorenzo, S. T. (2017). La dislexia y las dificultades en la adquisición de la lectoescritura. Profesorado. Revista de Currículum y Formación de Profesorado21(1), 423-432.
  • Swartz, S.L. (2010). Cada niño un lector: Estrategias innovadoras para enseñar a leer y escribir.Universidad Católica de Chile. Chile: Santiago.
  • Whitten, C., Labby, S., & Sullivan, S. L. (2019). The impact of pleasure reading on academic success. Journal of Multidisciplinary Graduate Research2(1).

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.