Why Your Child Struggles with Reading (And How to Help) - Morris Allen
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October 02, 2020
Why Your Child Struggles with Reading (And How to Help)
Year 2020
October 2020

Is your child in primary school, but still struggling with reading? Reading disorders are more common than you think, with research showing that this occurs in one in every five children. However, not all children who lag behind in reading have dyslexia or learning impairments. In some cases, it might be due to external circumstances. Here are several reasons why a child may be struggling with reading:

1. Lack of exposure

Most children pick up languages quite naturally from birth from the languages spoken at home and around them. Children who struggle in a language may very likely have had limited exposure to the language when they were younger. For example, they may have been raised in a family where their primary caregivers are not English speakers, or have had limited access to English books to practice reading with. Thus, these students benefit immensely from attending a good English tuition centre for primary level students, where they are given ready access to English reading materials and an English-speaking environment.

2. Learning disorders

If a child persists in their struggle to read despite having adequate guidance and exposure to the language, their reading impairment may stem from a learning disability. This may range from an intellectual disability that affects all aspects of a child’s intelligence, to dyslexia, a reading-specific disability.

Reading difficulties manifest themselves directly in difficulties reading, writing and spelling, but can extend to challenges in other areas. For example, due to the essential nature of reading to learning, a child with dyslexia will likely also have trouble in other language-heavy subjects and tasks, such as doing word problems in mathematics. With this as a major impediment to their learning, students may thus feel discouraged and suffer from low self-esteem.

3. Reluctant readers

It may be difficult to distinguish between a reluctant reader and one who truly has difficulty. However, children who dislike reading can soon fall behind their peers in reading abilities if they insist on not practising their reading skills. For example, they will lag behind in picking up new vocabulary, and will have less exposure to different text types and writing styles. In the long run, this will be a crutch to their language abilities in school, especially when more emphasis is put on essay-writing and reading comprehension skills.

What you can do to help a child struggling with reading

After getting to the root of your child’s lag in reading abilities, there are some things you can do to help your child:

1. Get alternative reading materials

You may find that your child has difficulty reading storybooks and textbooks, or are reluctant to read them. In this case, it may be worth trying to ease them into reading by offering them a variety of reading materials. Find a topic that interests them, or present them with text that is accompanied by visuals to capture their attention. Some types of texts that can aid a child’s reading development include:

  • Comics
  • Magazines
  • Audiobooks (and the accompanying text in a visual form)
  • Recipe books
  • Graphic novels

2. Cultivate phonemic awareness

Most people think that reading is isolated to the visual act of deciphering and comprehending text. However, reading difficulties often stem from a weak foundation or challenges in phonemic awareness. Thus, training children up in listening skills will also help in developing their reading skills. Some ways to instil listening and phonemic awareness are to explicitly teach phonics to the child, and to read aloud to them. Accompany these with the visual representations of the words so that the child can associate the sounds with the alphabetic symbols.

3. Reward Success

Many children with reading difficulties face a lack of confidence due to their slower learning. To boost your child’s confidence, you should celebrate small successes, exercise patience, and encourage him or her to keep going. This is particularly important when the child becomes stressed or frustrated. If a child feels assured of your support, he or she will feel more motivated to try.

4. Encourage reading aloud

As mentioned, reading involves phonetic skills. As such, children also learn how to read by reading aloud. Parents should encourage children to read aloud, using reading materials that are age- and level-appropriate. The reading session can be made more interactive by having parent and child take turns to read different pages or dialogues in the story. With reading materials that the child can handle, you can boost their reading confidence and progress to harder reading materials gradually.