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5 Powerful Tips on How to Teach a Child with ADHD Read

You might be reading this text effortlessly. But can you imagine your younger self digging into the pile of alphabets? Do you remember how you strived to learn phonics and word formation?

Now imagine if you could not focus on a given work. Or struggled in sitting still. How difficult it would have been to learn reading with these challenges?

This is exactly what children with ADHD have to go through. Struggles with focusing attention cost them their self-image. They not only fall behind in academic performance. But also tumble upon the abyss of learned helplessness.  

Fortunately, very effective reading strategies have been developed over the years.  If used aptly and efficiently. These techniques can do the magic for children with ADHD.

Read through the article to learn how effective reading strategies can help children with ADHD. Discover how executive functioning can improve academic performance. And mindfulness training can increase self-control and reading acquisition.

Common Symptoms of ADHD

According to Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 1 in every 10 children in USA receives a diagnosis of ADHD. Prevalence rate of ADHD is double in boys than girls.  

Its most common symptoms include:

  • Difficulty in focusing attention on one task
  • Difficulty in sitting still
  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty in maintaining personal hygiene
  • Difficulty in time management
  • Avoiding complex tasks
  • Fidgeting
  • Being Impatient specially when asked to wait for the turn
  • Interrupting others
  • Difficulty in understanding social cues


Up to 45% children with ADHD are also diagnosed with Learning disability (LD) or dyslexia.

Five Tips for teaching reading to children with ADHD

Following tips can make reading less challenging for children with ADHD.  Children with comorbid LD can also benefit from these strategies.  

1.    Break reading into small steps

For Children with ADHD sustaining attention on a given task is a constant struggle. Breaking down the reading task into smaller parts can really help. 

Few simple activities weaved around this principle are:

  • Incorporating Play Breaks: You can incorporate short play breaks. For example, after a certain amount of reading, you can allow running or jumping break.
  • Alternating reading and activity sessions: For older children, after reading a page incorporate a relevant activity. You can have a discussion, complete a worksheet or do a role play activity.
  • Using timers: Timers can help a child in regulating his reading activity more independently. You can use directions like:
  • “For first ten minutes, read first paragraph of the text”,
  • “then for next ten minutes, underline the nouns”,
  • “in last ten minutes, complete the work sheet”.

Using timer provides a visual way of tacking progress through activities. And time bound goals make it look like a series of small activities. Thus, breaking monotony helps in keeping things interesting.

  • Follow Natural Process of Reading

As a parent, teacher or therapist, its vital to acquaint yourself with the stages of reading.  To become a proficient reader a child typically follows this route:

  • Pre-reading:  pretending to read the familiar stories and books. Basically, through memory and cues e.g. pictures, drawings etc.
  • Basic reading: Learning phonics and decoding.
  • Fluency: Fluently reading words and sentences. 
  • Reading comprehension: Reading to understand the meaning of text. 
  • Critical analysis: Critically analyzing the message conveyed in the text.

Use the reading stages as a developmental checklist. Remember, each stage is a stepping stone for the next one. If your child struggles with phonics and decoding. Build upon these skills to help him move up the ladder of reading.   

3.    Ask Questions

Children with ADHD find it very difficult to identify the key information in a given content. “PRR (Preview, Read, Review) questioning” can be very effective in coping with this challenge. It activates back ground knowledge and intrigues curiosity. It also provides a framework for identifying essential information.

Ask questions before reading (preview), during reading (read) and after reading (review).


To activate the background knowledge, ask questions about the concept you are going to read about. You can also build required vocabulary in this stage.


Children with ADHD find it difficult to identify important information while reading. Providing list of pertinent questions helps in plotting critical information.  For example, ask the child to read a story with these questions in mind.  

  • Who is the main character(s)?
  • Where is he (context)?
  • What challenges or situations he faces?
  • Why he has to face those challenges?
  • What are the solutions of his problem?

Same framework can be applied to non-fiction genre.


Questioning frame work can also be used as a post reading activity. It can help in identifying the gaps in reading comprehension. And can help in planning the remedial and supported reading schedule.

4.    Adapt Reading material

Making reading interesting is paramount. Because successful experiences with reading positively reinforce the child. And he is more likely to readily engage in reading activities in future.

Adaptations make reading material more accessible, interesting and less demanding.

a)    Use alternate Readers:

Try to use readers with less content on one page. Specially in early years, when child is learning phonics and rhyming words. It helps in reducing distractions.  

b)    Read aloud:

In many cases children with ADHD can focus more on auditory stimuli. Read aloud to the child. Or use audio recordings of books. It can help in learning to read.

For some children, reading aloud to own self can be very helpful. If it works for your child. Teach him to read in a calm way, without disturbing others.

c)    Highlight key information:

Scanning a page full of information can be tedious for a child with ADHD. He might get distracted. Use different colored pencils to highlight the key words or phrases. Highlighting not only breaks monotony of content. But also aids in reading comprehension.

d)    Use Sticky note:

After reading a text, allow your child to note important information on sticky notes. And paste it near relevant sections.

e)    Graphic Organizers:  

Graphic organizers are also called concept maps or knowledge maps. After reading a few pages, you can help the child to use graphic organizer. He will be able to structure the key information. It will also help in understanding relationships between different concepts.

Alternatively, graphic organizers can also be provided in the beginning of the reading. This facilitates in reading more critically.

5.    Executive functioning and Mindfulness Training

Environmental distractions make focusing more difficult for children with ADHD. Mindfulness training can help in improving executive functioning. Reducing distractions and improving self-control significantly improve reading acquisition.

Distraction free environment

Select reading space with no tv, radio, computer or any other distractions. Some children perform well with a soothing background music, or while sitting on floor. Select conducive learning environment according to the preferences of the child.

Start with most interesting books

Initially select books that interest the child the most. For example, if child is interested in cartoons, select books about cartoons.


Children with ADHD cannot sit still for long. Same is the case with concentrating on a task. Mindfulness training can help them in calming their nerves and feeling in control.

Select a calm and quite place. Let the child sit in a comfortable chair. Help him to practice deep breathing with eyes closed. Doing calming exercises before reading can help in improving concentration. 

Some children prefer using fidget spinners and other calming gadgets. It helps them in controlling hyperactivity and staying focused. Try to discover what works well for your child.

Physical activity helps children with ADHD in regularizing their on-task behavior. Allowing brief walking breaks can be effective in improving academic performance.


It is important to make child with ADHD independent. Try to make him self-sufficient in practicing self-control strategies. Once he starts using coping strategies adeptly, gradually fade away your support.


We need to understand that ADHD affects global academic performance of a child. He faces similar problems in writing and math. These strategies will not only help in improving his reading ability. But will positively contribute to his overall academic performance.

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Please note that these techniques are not intended to replace professional care and are for entertainment purposes only.

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