As a special education teacher and parent, I have worked with many children who have struggled to learn to read. The main thing to remember as a parent is to be patient. Children are all different, and they go through different processes when learning to read.

Often, learning to read can be like learning to ride a bike. Some kids learn easier and earlier than others, but as long as they don’t give up, most end up being competent readers.

The key is keeping them from giving up. This can require patience from parents and teachers. Below are some suggestions that can help keep your struggling reader on the path toward reading competence.

Read in front of them.

When learning something new begins to become difficult, we get frustrated, and it is natural to consider whether we need or want to master the particular skill. Reading is like this.

When our children see us reading, we are showing them that there is value in reading, that it is something they will need or want to do later in life. When they are first learning to read, children are at the age where they are constantly modeling their behavior after parents and other role models. This is a crucial time for them to see us reading.

Read to them.

Students who struggle to read will often begin to view reading as work, a chore that has to be done, and a source of frustration. This perspective will only make the process more difficult for them. When you read to them, you allow them to focus on the content. Whether you are reading something that is interesting, funny, entertaining, or educational, it gives them the opportunity to see the value in the content. This can add to their motivation to continue to improve their reading ability.

Other benefits of reading to them can include expanding their vocabulary and developing formal sentence structure.

Listen to them read.

When you take your car to the mechanic and he asks what’s wrong, you are often likely to describe the sounds your car is making. Kids’ reading difficulties can be the same.

When you know your son or daughter is having trouble, you should look into the problem by listening to them read. This will help you discern what the issue may be. They may struggle with certain letter combinations, they may have good fluency but poor comprehension, or they may have difficulty with visual discrimination.

There are many possible areas where they may struggle, and this information can help you in several ways, including the following:

  • It can allow you to focus your efforts to help them.
  • It can give you information to share with their teachers as they work with your child.
  • It can help you to recognize when your child has improved, and can give you an opportunity to praise them and increase their self-confidence.

Encourage them to persevere.

Learning to read can be very, very difficult, but it is also a very important part of life. As parents, we must continually encourage our kids to keep working, regardless of how difficult the process may be. When we do this, we not only help them to continue to learn to read, but we also teach them that there will always be difficult tasks in life and that they should never give up.

Teach them to be comfortable with their difficulty.

Kids are always comparing themselves to others so see how they stack up. They compare everything from athletic ability and physical appearance to video game skill and academic success.

When they struggle in school with skills such as reading, they will quickly realize that they aren’t doing as well as other students. This can cause them to feel inadequate, and it is easy for the children to carry this feeling over to other areas of their lives.

It is important that we talk to them and let them know that everyone has areas where they struggle and that reading is only a small part of who they are. When we have these conversations, it helps them to be comfortable with their difficulty, to not feel a need to hide it, and to be willing to ask for help when they need it.