Helping Children with Reading Difficulties

Anthony M. Wanjohi:
Reading is a complex task that requires coordination of various faculties. It requires not only coordination of eyes but also visual memory which helps in retaining the meaning of letters and words. Teachers and parents have a crucial role to play in helping young readers with reading difficulties. This article briefly explores a number of ways on how to help children with reading difficulties.

Selecting Appropriate Reading Materials and Reading Technique

Reading materials should be written according to the level of learners. Slower learners are much more comfortable with materials that are within their level. The reading level is of primary concern; however parents and teachers can help children with reading difficulties to select helpful materials according to their preference.

Teachers and parents should choose stories or books with a reduced number of words that are not difficulty to read, with short paragraphs that convey the message; books that have meaningful flow of ideas and helpful illustrations that create mental pictures. Newspapers are also good for older readers who have some basic reading skills. They are good for improving reading comprehension (Monda, et al., 1988).

Structural technique – This is a technique which some instructors use to help in speeding reading. The technique is referred to as Phrase Reading (Klaeser, 1977). The technique is used with learners with reading difficulties to increase the speed of reading.

Improving Reader Attitude

There are various factors that influence children’s attitudes towards reading: children’s personal encounters in reading, confidence level, and teachers’ or parents’ attitudes towards child’s reading. There are a number of ways on how a teacher or parent can cultivate a positive attitude towards reading among children. Teachers and parents should avoid labeling children. Tutors who have worked consistently with learners with reading difficulties are very aware of the role of the self in self-motivation. The child’s sense of self-worth can greatly be damaged by labeling. The caregivers should therefore appreciate children’s thinking as the basis of their reading ability. They should also maintain some flexibility in their expectations regarding their children’s development in mastering reading skills. Children need to be made aware of their own reading ability. This has potentials of creating positive self image and reading confidence (Webb, 1992). The footnote in improving child’s attitude is simply appreciation; to feel loved.

Allocating more time to reading lessons

Allocating more time to reading lessons is an important strategy towards improving reading among readers. Teachers and caregivers should take interest in monitoring child’s reading progress.

There are a number of strategies that have been reported to help readers with reading difficulties. These include reading in phrases, skipping words that are not essential, and continuing to read the text even after encountering difficulty words (Wallace, 2001). Training reading is also an important strategy. According to Devine, (1993) training enhances the meta-cognitive knowledge base of readers and results in improved reading performance.

Another reading strategy is the ability to make informed predictions as the student progresses through the text (Wallace, 2001). By making these predictions, the learner takes an interactive role in the reading process. According to Blanton (1994), making predictions while reading form the basis of literacy, formal learning and academic achievement.

Allotting learners more time to private reading practice

Extra time allotted to reading can be spent in libraries or to other home/private based printed materials that the learners are exposed in their own environment. The notion of private reading practice for improving reading is very important since it enhances the fluency skills taught by the tutors. Some children allocate more time to reading out of the school hours than others. The factor of private extra time for reading is regarded as a great influence on the fluency of readers and a wide exposure to various texts.

Allotting more private time to reading by learners exposes them to a wide variety of literary environment in which they can perfect their art of reading. It has been noted that the slower a pupil reads a given passage, the lower his/her level of understanding; the fast one reads, the higher the levels of conceptualizing. It is worth noting that while teachers have been keen on the need for learners to allot more time to reading texts out of the school hours, it should also be pointed out that most of the recommended textbooks for teaching may not be necessarily captivating for young readers. As such, learners should be encouraged to interact with various reading materials besides the normal school books. They can be given freedom to choose their reading materials with parental guidance.

Visual image based texts

Use of visual image based texts is one effective strategy for slower readers to generate visual images of what is being read (Carver, 1990). For the reader to create mental pictures, he or she must first be in position to able to make out the word. Assuming the reader knows how to identify words, he or she needs concepts to envision the flow of action portrayed on the page.

The concept building techniques apply both to average and the readers who are slower. The slower reader however, gains more from concrete experiences and images than from abstract debate. Parents and teachers should make extra effort not only in guiding the slower reader in visualizing images but also describing the images that occur in his or her own mind as he or she reads a certain passage. This is meant to give the child a concrete sense of what visual imagery implies. Images, physical actions, experimental displays are only a few of the ways that teachers, parents and caregivers can make the key vocabulary take root within the reader’s mind.

There are various other ways or approaches that parents, teachers and caregivers can take to help children with reading difficulties. Medical interventions, counseling are among other approaches that could be taken. These are vital in unpacking some of the hidden, unresolved issues within a child that could be the root cause of the reading difficulties.


Blanton, L. (1994). Discourse, artifacts, and the Ozarks: understanding academic literacy. In Zamel, & Spack, pp. 219-235.

Carver, R. P. (1990). Reading rate: a review of research and theory. San Diego, California: Academic Press, Inc.

Devine, J. (1993). The role of metacognition in second language reading and writing. In J. Carson and I. Leki (Eds.), Reading in the Composition Classroom: Second Language Perspectives (pp. 105-127). Boston: Heinle and Heinle.

Klaeser, B. M. (1977). Reading improvement: a complete course for increasing speed and comprehension.Chicago: Nelson-Hall Inc., Publishers.

Monda, L. E., et al. (1988). Use the News: Newspapers and LD Students, Journal of Reading, 31(7), 678-79.

Wallace, C. (1992). Reading. Oxford: OxfordUniversity Press.

Webb, G.M. (1992). Needless Battles on Dyslexia. Education Week.