Having problems with reading is something that many children go through, but the first thing to understand is that there is not one typical reason why, because it could be for a multitude of reasons. I’ve seen it many times in my career as a librarian for children at Pima County Public Library and it’s really common. I would recommend that you try to identify the root cause of any issue, which could be something as simple as they just require a little more practice, or vision issues which could fixed simply with glasses, for example, or something a little more complex such as a diagnosis of dyslexia. Whatever the issue is, however, first you must identify it, often with the help of professionals, and from there you can find a solution.
Here are some typical issues, as well as the most suitable solutions to them. These are some cases I encountered and best ways I found to deal with them.
This is quite a common issue and I have seen it numerous times as children choose to ignore the words they don’t recognize, often because they are choosing to use an inefficient memorizing system. This is actually a decoding problem. I have actually overcome this by teaching the child to read in the same way that he or she listens. It’s all about processing the sounds in order to recognize them in the future.
Kids are learning new words all the time, of course, but many have issues remembering new words, even after they have just learnt them. This can be frustrating for them, and may lead them to not want to read, which is what you want to avoid at all costs. I has a lot of trouble with this and I recommend being patient and focusing on good ways for children to memorize things.
The solution to forgetting words involves linking the relationship between words whose spelling and pronunciation don’t obviously match up in memorable ways. Focusing on those ‘irregular’ words is a great strategy, and create innovative stories and explanations to make the word or sound more memorable in future.
Not wanting to read aloud
Children who sense that they are struggling with an activity (especially in comparison to others) will almost immediately not want to do it, and this certainly happens with reading aloud. Kids at my library had these issues often and became shy because of this. My advice is that at home you must create a supportive and encouraging environment which encourages your child to read. Any issues that have been identified can be overcome, your job now is simply to create a conducive atmosphere for wanting to do it. I tell children that it’s okay if they don’t know something and tell them a relatable story.
Not enjoying reading usually boils down to one of two things: an underlying reading issue, perhaps one of those listed here, or a lack of interest in doing so. The lack of interest may simply stem from the fact that the resources your child is using do not stimulate him or her, so it will be a case of changing up those reading materials and finding something that they can relate too. Connect it to song lyrics, for example, or encourage reading as part of a video game that they love. It’s all about finding the connection. I’d recommend making it a nice ritual in your home or, if you are a librarian like me, in your library. Prepare some cookies or sweets, play some relaxing music, settle in comfortably and read together.
Spelling issues affect reading, of course, because this is essentially another decoding issue – the child is struggling to link the sound to what he or she sees. This is related to phonics – the sounds that individual letters and combinations of letters make. Again, I advise you to be patient and to encourage them positively. Start from something simple, practice a lot and move towards something harder.
Phonics are really where the reading and writing journey begins, so it may just be that you have to take a little step back (and learn the phonics in more detail) in order to take the big steps forward, which will come.
Seek help where you can in identifying what your child’s reading issue is, and in most cases there is an underlying problem which can be easily resolved (such as poor eyesight or even issues with phonics, which can be easily relearnt). Most importantly of all is to encourage an environment where your child wants to read, and feels comfortable doing so.
Editor and librarian Ellie Coverdale can be found at Pima County Public Library for Children where she contributes insights how both parents and educators can encourage learning in their child, and help them reach all their learning objectives in a way that is fun and meaningful to each individual child. Ellie also works as a tutor at UK Writings, and teaches business and content writing services.