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When a Child Struggles to Read: What a Parent Needs to Know

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Book on headEvery child needs to learn how to read well. When reading does not come easily, it affects every part of life. Thanks to research conducted by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), we know the best way to teach children to read! The NICHD and the National Reading Panel published an excellent summary of their research which included thousands of children.

Teaching reading is complex. Many teachers were trained before this research came out and they continue to use old methods that do not work for struggling readers. If your child needs extra help with reading, I recommend that you make sure they are participating in a program based on the research of the Panel. You should also read some of the parent and teacher resources available free online.

Find out whether the program your child is in is research-based and whether it is has been successfully tested. It should include instruction in the following key areas from Put Reading First: The Research Building Blocks of Reading Instruction.

  • Phonemic Awareness. Children learn to hear, identify, and play with the sounds in spoken words. What happens if you take /b/out of /bat/? I’m thinking of a word that rhymes with honey and starts with /f/ -- can you figure out what it is? (Make the sounds of the letters inside brackets.)
  • Phonics. Children learn the connection between the letters of written language and the sounds they make. What sound does "ch" make?
  • Fluency. Children work on reading accuracy and speed.
  • Vocabulary. Students work to increase their vocabulary so they can make sense of what they read.
  • Comprehension. Children learn strategies that help them to understand what they are reading.

If you have concerns about the reading program at your child’s school, ask about each of the above components. Ask whether the program is supported by research. For a host of articles on reading and helping your child learn to read, check out this archive of articles.


#1 Connie McCarthy 2010-10-29 10:44
Thanks for sharing this great information! Phonemic Awareness is such a crucial skill for beginning readers and increasing fluency directly leads to increasing comprehension.

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