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5 expert-backed tips on how to help a child with reading comprehension problem

Introduction

There is a staggering number of children who struggle with reading disorders.

Dyslexia alone affects 15-20% of individuals. Other reasons children may struggle are attention deficit disorders, mental health issues, lack of proper support, learning disabilities, and differentiated learning styles.

Watching a child struggle with reading can be incredibly difficult, but there are many tried and trusted ways to help children gain confidence and skill with their reading abilities. 

This article will present 5 ultimate expert tips on how to help a child who is struggling with reading.   

1st Expert Tip

Understanding the Obstacles

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Before you can help children with their reading difficulties, you have to first know what is causing the problem.

A child who has ADD and, therefore, cannot focus for more than a few moments at a time will require a different set of skills than one who is struggling with letter sounds or another who suffers from anxiety and the fear of making mistakes.

Steps for Parents

Parents not experienced in the field of education may have no idea what their child is dealing with and may need professional help.

The first step is to talk to a child’s teacher or pediatrician about the possibilities of what could be causing this delay. Educators may need to suggest and implement a 504 or IEP for a child you notice is struggling.

This process will, of course, require steps taken within the school.

2nd Expert Tip

Importance of reading

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Children who struggle with reading are more likely to fall behind in schoolwork than their peers.

Reading text is one of the main ways children and adults receive and process new information.  Adults must carefully, without pushing, foster a genuine enjoyment in reading with children. 

A child who struggles with reading will have difficulty completing assignments, taking tests, and comprehending the material.

In the United States alone, 14% of the adult population is unable to read above a 4th-grade level, making them functionally illiterate

Later Life Impact

Those who are unable to read are less likely to find sustainable and meaningful work; they will earn less than their literate counterparts and are more likely to withdraw from their community.

Reading skills are not only beneficial to success in school and as an adult, but they boost an individual’s confidence.

Children who suffer from reading delays and disabilities are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, and to have behavioral issues in school.

Expert Tip #3

Letter Recognition

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Let’s first examine one of the most common and most benign reasons a child may be struggling with reading.

They cannot recognize or retain letter name knowledge, which will make learning letter sounds and blends, and all that follows are extremely difficult.

Environmental Print

The use of environmental print is one of the most successful and simple ways to help a child notice and recognize letterforms.

On a trip to the grocery store, have them find goods that have a particular letter on the box. Driving in the car, have them look for a specific letter and shout it out whenever they see it.

You can use restaurant labels, toys, books, anything with letters to go on a letter hunt.

Some simple letter recognition games you can create for home or a classroom are:

  • Clothespins with a letter and a corresponding card to clip the matching letter on
  • Printable Playdough mats in letter shapes and Playdough
  • Printable ABC LEGO creation cards
  • Object/Animal matching cards with the corresponding letter

Expert Tip #4

Letter Sounds

Children who suffer from a difficulty recognizing phonological awareness may be able to name the letters but are unable to make the connection to the sound it makes.

These children could be affected by an auditory processing disorder, a developmental delay, or auditory dyslexia.

Children affected by these disorders do not have a hearing problem; instead, their brains struggle to make the neural connections required to process sounds.

Auditory Disorders

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If children have an auditory processing disorder, they will benefit from one on one study in a quiet space.

Additional background noise and sounds can interfere with their ability to focus on the sounds at hand.

Start by teaching them the sounds they are most familiar with, such as the letters in their name and common words.

You can use various exercises to isolate sounds. For example, ask the child what the word “hat” would sound like with the |h| sound removed. This practice will help them to understand sound isolation and break down individual sounds.

Additional activities to use with children experiencing phonological issues are:

  • Clapping each unique sound. |h| – clap, |ae| – clap, |t|
  • Clapping syllables. |h| – clap, |ae| |t|, clap
  • Showing a picture of the letter as the adult first models and the student repeats
  • Play sound matching games but presenting a word and asking a child to think of a word that starts with the same sound.

Expert Tip #5

Comprehension

Letter and sounds are not the only areas readers can struggle with. Another common area children struggling with reading have difficulty with is comprehension.

A child may be able to read the text beautifully, but when asked to answer follow up questions, draw a blank. This may come from a lack of understanding of what the words mean.

Individuals who suffer from comprehension issues may have ADHD. ADHD creates the inability to focus on what they are reading.

Other disabilities could be a language processing that involves a lack of understanding of what they read, or dyslexia, which requires the child to expound so much effort on decoding all word meaning is lost.

Characterization of Comprehension Issues

Comprehension issues are characterized by children who read with a flat tone, weak phrasing when reading aloud, and frequently wish to avoid reading tasks.

Reading comprehension troubles can often go unnoticed as children will adopt other means to complete their work.

Hidden disabilities can be more challenging to spot, but with proper observation and assessment, parents and educators should be able to uncover this struggle and aid the child in reaching their reading goals.

Ways to Help

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One of the best tools to help a child struggling with comprehension is to read aloud together and follow up with a question and answer session.

Once an age-appropriate text has been selected, the adult should read through the book and formulate a handful of questions.

The questions should be presented to the child before reading; this will help prepare them mentally for the key moments they are reading for.

Once the child has read the text, repeat the questions, and answer them. If those questions are answered sufficiently, continue by asking further open-ended questions. For example, “why did the dog want the bone?” or “What do you think is going to happen next?”.

These questions promote critical thinking, which will help with comprehension.

Additional Reading Tips

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  • Read books on topics that interest the child
  • Visit the library and allow children to pick out their own books
  • Attend library story hours
  • Make sure books are skill level appropriate.
  • Read a more advanced chapter and storybook to your child. Break it down over several sessions.
  • Read rhyming and nonsensical word books like Dr. Seuss
  • Engage in rhyming and alliteration games
  • Ask open-ended questions during their play or when you hold conversations
  • Create stories together and write them down, add illustrations

Summary

No matter the reason for a child’s struggle with reading, there are ways it can be addressed and helped.

It may require creativity, dedication, and hard work, but any child can be lead and nurtured towards achieving their reading goals. Low reading levels equate to low self-esteem, struggles in school, and later struggles in adulthood.

In most cases, helping a child better their reading skills does not require fancy tools, expensive products, or fancy tutoring programs. It requires observation, patience, adult involvement from a trusted and caring adult.

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