Have you observed that your child has a concentration problem only when asked to read? Is it difficult for them to remember sight words and letters? These could be simple telltale signs of a reading struggle – something your child can’t explicitly state as a problem to you or their teachers.  

A reading struggle is more common a phenomenon than you can imagine. It is something that is much more rampant and impactful than a lack of any other skill. In fact, about 65% of 4th graders in the US read below the grade level, contributing to 8000 high school dropouts every year. 

The Most Common Signs of a Reading Struggle

There are some failproof tell-tale signs that your child may be facing a reading struggle. If your child exhibits one or more of the following, it’s likely that they are silently battling with reading as a skill:

  • Running away at the very mention of ‘reading time’, making excuses, or throwing a tantrum that’s more severe than usual
  • Being unable to provide a summary of what they read but can recall information in bits and pieces
  • Inability to relate what they read to real-life situations, things, people, etc.
  • Troubles with explaining a character’s feelings, alternate strategies that they could have used, etc.
  • Consistently lower grades in reading comprehension while they do well at other subjects that involve lesser long-form reading (viz math, general knowledge, arts, etc.)

Understanding Why Kids Face Reading Struggle

The good news is that identification is as always the first step towards rectification of a reading struggle. But, before we talk about how to help a kid with their reading struggle, let’s first understand and acknowledge why kids struggle with reading in the first place.

Top 10 Reasons Why Kids Struggle with Reading

There could be many reasons why a child may be struggling with reading. While we have listed down the most common ones, be sure to assess your child carefully and thoroughly to look for any other causes as well. 

1. Stress/ anxiety

General stress or anxiety about life situations can deter a child from reading effectively or in an engaging manner. With a mind that’s clinging to another stress-causing issue, it can be difficult for a child to concentrate on reading or even show interest in reading. The most common cause of anxiety in kids is usually stress about schoolwork, grades, peer pressure, etc.

2. Attention disorder

An attention disorder or hyperactivity is another common cause of a reading struggle in kids. The tendency to jump from one activity to another without being able to focus on one task is termed hyperactivity. This need not refer to extreme physical pacing or activity.

Even the mind wandering off from one thing to another in a short span of time is referred to as an attention disorder. This generally presents itself as a reading struggle in kids, specifically while tackling reading comprehensions that involve ‘careful’ reading.

3. Learning disabilities

Vision impairments, dyslexia, etc. could also be a reason for a struggle with reading. These problems are again more common than we would like to believe. It’s estimated that between 15-20% of people (including children) struggle with some level of dyslexia.

4. Lack of interest

A general lack of interest in the content presented to children for reading can also lead to a reading struggle later on. If a child starts hating what they’re reading about, it is likely that they will end up struggling with reading overall eventually, simply out of disinterest.

5. Lack of vocabulary

A good vocabulary makes the process of reading easier, faster, and much more rewarding. If your child has only a limited and functional vocabulary, they may be demotivated to read whenever they come across new words in the text. 

6. Difficulty in sounding out words (phonological awareness)

Difficulty in sounding out the words on a page can lead to a reading struggle in kids. Consider a simple fact, if a child takes 2 to 3 times longer duration to read the words on a page, they will spend less time trying to find out their meaning. This eventually becomes a repeated pattern and a struggle with reading as we term it.

7. Lack of support/ external motivation/ right guidance

Lack of supportive teachers, the right motivation, and guidance can lead to a reading struggle more often than not. In the absence of external motivation, sometimes kids can find it difficult to sustain the habit of reading. Reading is an acquired skill and hence should be honed with regular feedback, praise, and support. Without any of these, a child may fall prey to a general struggle with reading. 

8. Inability to see the utility of reading

This is in a way an extension of the above. Many kids in the absence of a ‘reward’ attached to reading (initially) can lose their interest in it. Reading for securing a high grade may not be enough motivation for kids. Until a child develops a self-motivated approach towards reading, external gratification (both physical and verbal) may be necessary. 

9. Reading mode incompatibility

A very less talked about and least attributed reason for a reading struggle is a reading mode incompatibility. Some kids avoid reading simply because they are unable to adjust to the reading mode offered. For example, some children might not be comfortable with reading on a tablet, others may read better in ‘dark mode’, while some might read for longer on a digital device as compared to paper. Getting the child their preferred mode for reading is as critical as motivating them to read.

10. Any major distraction factors like screen time

Most kids in today’s day and age have disproportionately higher screen times as compared to the previous generations. Screens offer passive and hence highly engaging forms of entertainment. Reading is all about active engagement, thinking, and application. The resistance towards reading that can arise ONLY due to high screen times could be huge. Similarly, other distractions like an extremely noisy environment, lack of proper lighting or a comfortable corner, etc. can also contribute to kids’ reading struggles.  

Also read: Early Reading Intervention: End Your Child’s Struggle with Reading

5 Ways to Help Your Child with Their Reading Struggle

As a parent, you are your child’s first teacher and there is a lot you can do to help them with a reading struggle as well. Identifying a reading struggle is the first step to correcting it. And if you’re in this section of this article, congratulations! You are now already on a journey to watch your child do better with reading. 

Understanding Why Kids Face Reading Struggle

Please note that this list is not comprehensive but is designed only to give you a starting point. We encourage you to use these ideas in conjunction with your own creative ways to help your child:

  1. Read aloud with your child every day: This is a great way to help them develop phonological awareness. The reading-together exercise will also strengthen your bond with your child while setting an example of how you too enjoy reading. Readout aloud with them and take enough pauses in between to discuss where the story is headed, the characters, feelings, etc. Ask them questions and with a few days of practice, your child will soon start taking interest in reading. 
  2. Address their core concern by careful evaluation (or get a professional evaluation done): this step is critical for you to come up with the most effective solution for your child. Unless you know the root cause of your child’s reading struggle, you will end up wasting resources and time trying to address a wrong concern. Assess carefully to know whether it is a learning disability as mentioned above or an environmental factor that’s contributing to your child’s reading struggle. It is also advised that you get a professional evaluation done for your child. You can request one here on Talentnook for just $49.
  3. Motivate and reward them: praise and reward your child for the smallest of successes as well. If they read a page more than usual, make sure to acknowledge their effort. Set aside small treats like their favorite ice cream once they finish a book. Simple motivation can also do wonders. Try using positive statements like “I am so glad you read that page, it was my favorite part of the story too!”
  4. Use audiobooks and reduce their screen time: to build an interest in stories initially, audiobooks are a great way. They are better than cartoon videos on the TV or video games. Audiobooks will help your child enjoy the story without the burden of reading on their own. This small step will eventually make them interested in reading the book itself on their own. This method is most useful for kids who show absolute resistance towards reading from books, tablets, etc.
  5. Get them the right reading support (tutors, IEPs, etc.): lastly, getting every child the right support they need is every parent’s responsibility. You can explore an Individualized Education Program with your child’s school that is customized for your child. Getting them a reading tutor is also a great way to build some routine and address core issues with comprehension. A reading tutor is trained to motivate your child to read, assess their progress and help them work on the specific areas of language capability viz vocabulary, speed reading, phonemics, etc.

How can the Talentnook Reading Program help kids with reading struggles?

The Talentnook ELEMENTS of READING PROGRAM is designed to combat reading struggles for kids of any age group. The program teaches the fundamentals of reading and gives the right support to help your child become a better reader. 

Elements of Reading from Talentnook is an effective reading program for all students including diverse learners such as Students with Disabilities and English Learners who participate in general education classroom instruction. We begin with very young readers, and our philosophy is that good reading skills lead to good writing skills. Our reading program is based on letter-sound recognition and word attack strategies with phonemic awareness and syllable breakdown.

Want to learn more about the program? Learn more about the Program here.

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Author Pragya