How to Help a Struggling Reader

by | Nov 26, 2020 | Phonics & Reading | 0 comments

What is the most common reason for lack of reading progress?

Many students who do not progress well in reading struggle because they lack a solid phonics foundation. To improve reading skills, first try to identify at what point your child failed to gain the necessary understanding to move on in reading. For example, how many of these basic steps in reading can your student easily perform?

  1. Recognizes the letters/sounds of the alphabet.
  2. Blends a single consonant and a vowel together (sa, mu, fe, ti, ro).
  3. Can add an ending consonant sound to a blend to form a word (sat, mug, fed, tip, rod).
  4. Proficiently applies the following one and two vowel rules:
    1. ONE VOWEL RULE: When there is one vowel in a short word, it usually says its short sound.
    2.  TWO VOWEL RULE: When there are two vowels in a short word, the first one usually says its short sound; the second one is silent
  5. Easily reads consonant digraphs (ck, sh, ch, ng, th, wh); blends two or three consonants together with a vowel (bla, dre, spi, ste, smo, thru); and can add an ending consonant sound to form a giant blend word (black, dress, spill, step, smock thrush).
  6. Proficiently reads vowel digraphs (ai, ea, ee, ie, ei, ie, oa, oe, ow, oo, ew, ue, ew, ue), modified vowels (ar, er, ir, or, ur), and diphthongs (ou, ow, oi, oy).
  7. Understands syllabication and where to place the accent (stress) in a word.
  8. Can read paragraphs smoothly, with expression, from one line to the next.
  9. Proficiently reads words with vowel and consonant variants (those that don’t follow normal rules of pronunciation), silent letters, and prefixes/suffixes.
  10. Has developed good reading comprehension through these important skills: (1) clear enunciation of words, (2) grouping words together to sound like talking, (3) use of proper voice inflection, and (4) reading punctuation marks correctly

How can I help my child improve reading skills?

If your child isn’t very proficient in steps 1-5 above, he or she should benefit from completing our Beginning-to-Read Program (Level B – item 002). If the deficiency is mainly in steps 6-10, we recommend going through the elements of the Advanced Phonics Program (Level C – item 003) which still need strengthening.

What should I do if the problem isn’t the lack of a phonics foundation?

If your child has had a strong phonics foundation but still isn’t progressing well, there may be an eye or hearing problem—or a learning disability. We recommend screening by a pediatric ophthalmologist and audiologist. If everything is okay physically, then the next step is to screen for a possible learning disability. Should that be the diagnosis, please don’t let that alarm you. Most of these children have average or above average intelligence. They simply need extra help to compensate for an auditory or visual processing weakness which makes some types of learning—like reading—a little more difficult. Your diagnostician will probably make a recommendation regarding whether to pursue phonics further or to utilize a different approach.

Children who are struggling readers continually need encouragement. Therefore, ask the Lord for wisdom to establish reasonable expectations—those in accordance with your child’s God-given capabilities. Frequently remind your son or daughter that he or she is deeply loved, and can do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13). Then faithfully pray for such strength. It’s a blessing to know that you can have great confidence in the fact that God is always faithful to answer Scripturally-based prayers (1 John 5:14-15).


How can I teach English as a second language---or help an adult who is a poor reader?

Many adults who have struggled with reading (and foreigners wanting to learn English) have benefited from going through our Christ-Centered Phonics Drill Reader (item 357). The Introduction explains how to teach a person to read. Its word lists (100 per page), phrases, sentences, and paragraphs cover these skills: initial consonant blends, short/long vowel words, consonant digraphs, consonant blends, suffixes (-es, -ed, -ing), vowel digraphs, modified vowels, diphthongs, consonant and vowel variants, silent letters, and words with prefixes/suffixes. The reader includes the 1,000 words used in 90% of all American English reading materials. As students read through the book, they will also be learning five spiritual themes: Creation, the Fall, the Flood, the Law, and Grace. This makes the Phonics Drill Reader an especially good tool for missionaries who want to teach spiritual truths as they help a person learn to read English. A bonus is that faithful practice in this reader will also increase reading speed dramatically.

Click here to access the Christ-Centered Phonics Drill Reader in our online catalog.