Do you have a child that struggles with reading, but don’t know why? As a parent, we want what’s best for our kids. We would do anything for them to go through life without any struggle at all. So when we have a child who struggles with reading, we do everything possible to get them the help they need. There is practically ALWAYS something at the root of a child’s struggle with reading. Our children are not being lazy when it comes to reading, but something is getting in the way of reading being an easy task for them. The reason behind a struggle with reading is often not as complicated as we are led to believe. This post goes over 10 reasons why a child may be struggling with reading.
Why Understanding the Reason Our Child is Struggling is Important
In my career as a Resource Teacher and my role as a parent, I’ve come across a number of reasons why a child may be struggling with reading. What makes this so important is the fact that each reason needs to be approached and targeted differently when it comes to working with the struggling young reader. Therefore, it’s critical to discover what is at the root of a struggle with reading.
Not considering the reason behind a struggle with reading has the detrimental consequences of doing more of the same with our children… more reading logs, more worksheets, more homework BUT without the results our child so desperately needs and that we so desperately hope for.
Let’s consider ten reasons a child may be struggling with reading now. The reasons below are in no particular order.
1. Visual Impairment
Okay, I know this one seems simple. However, I must mention it. Not long ago, I was working with an 8 year old child who had a very difficult time with reading even though she knew the basic rules of reading. The issue was her vision. She couldn’t tell the difference between many letters when attempting to decipher words.
I then found out that she had a visual impairment and was prescribed glasses. The reason she wasn’t wearing glasses was because she had lost too many pairs and her parents struggled with the cost of constantly getting her new ones.
Now I’m not sure what the answer is for this girl to consistently wear her glasses and not lose them. I do know she will not learn to read properly unless she is able to clearly see what she’s reading. Please have your child’s vision tested first and foremost if there is a struggle with reading. If a visual impairment is discovered, I suggest using an incentive chart if wearing glasses becomes an issue for your child.
2. Visual Tracking Weakness
A visual tracking weakness occurs when one’s eye muscles are not evenly developed between both eyes. When a visual tracking weakness is present, some of the eye muscles become fatigued more quickly than others. When this happens, readers may experience things such as words becoming blurry or having difficulty with keeping their place when reading.
An individual can have perfect vision and still struggle with visual tracking. A visual tracking weakness is NOT a visual impairment. It has to do with the muscles and movement of the eyes, not the ability of the eyes to see.
3. Perceptual Processing
Perceptual processing has to do with how one makes sense of and processes information that is taken in through the eyes. An individual can have 20/20 vision, yet struggle with perceptual processing.
To better understand this, let’s consider a camera. A photographer will put different filters on their camera’s lenses for different lighting. This is to reduce reflections in order to protect the lenses and enhance the colors. Without the filter, they would take the same photo, but it wouldn’t look the same. On our phones, we can easily adjust how our photos look through our filter options. It’s assumed that we humans automatically adjust and are able to perceive things accurately in all kinds of lighting without needing a special filter. However, this isn’t true for the individual with a perceptual processing difficulty.
When a perceptual processing difficulty is affecting our children, it may or may not be constantly impacting them because of factors such as their environment, whether or not they are tired, etc. When it does impact them, it tends to cause some sort of visual distortions happening, making reading a very difficult thing to do.
Neurotiming has the simple meaning of timing in the brain. However, it’s role is far from simple! Neurotiming is what allows each of us to focus, to read with fluency, to process language and the world around us, to keep our balance when moving through space, and to play a sport. The ability to follow multi-step directions and to easily remember things is also directly impacted by an individual’s neurotiming.
The human brain is made up of approximately 100 billion neurons. These neurons need to talk to one another. If there is delay anywhere in this process, neurotiming is impacted. When it’s impacted, our ability to self-regulate and to read effectively is affected.
5. Social Thinking
A difficulty with social thinking is a difficulty with understanding and relating to some of the subtle social nuances that take place around us each day. It’s one’s strength in social thinking that allows us to respond one way when out with friends and another when sitting in church or out with grandparents.
If your child has a difficulty with social thinking, it may be that your child can read words, but struggles to interpret the meaning of the sentences on the page, to make empathetic connections between him/herself and the characters within the story being read, and/or to make inferences from what is being read. Making inferences refers to the ability to make probable conclusions based on information that is implied rather than explicitly stated.
Oxford Dictionary defines anxiety as “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.”
Anxiety impacts working memory and cognitive function. It’s difficult to remain attentive to one’s surroundings and to recall facts when anxious. I think we’ve all been there at one time or another when we really knew answers when taking a test, but failed to recall the information when it was needed. This is anxiety blocking what we know. Just as anxiety can impact our test-taking skills, it also often plays a role in a child’s struggle with reading.
Before moving forward, I believe it’s imperative to first define the word dyslexia since this word will be used in a few of the upcoming reasons for why a child may be struggling with reading. There are many preconceived notions out there for what dyslexia is. For the purposes of this blog post, the definition found in Oxford Dictionary is perfect:
“Dyslexia is a general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols, but that do NOT affect general intelligence.”Oxford Dictionary
7. Dysphonetic Dyslexia
Dysphonetic Dyslexia is seen when an individual has difficulty with phonetics and the sounding out of words or parts of words. The spelling of someone with dysphonetic dyslexia can be very difficult to understand as it is not phonetic at all. Because of this, words they write cannot be sounded out by the reader. An individual with dysphonetic dyslexia may be impacted by a difficulty with auditory processing.*
*Please note that sometimes auditory processing may be a factor in this type of dyslexia. This is when an individual can hear, but the processing of the words may be impacted. If you believe this may describe your child, it may be of benefit to have his/her hearing assessed. While there, ask the audiologist to also do an assessment of your child’s auditory processing. If auditory processing is determined to be a factor, working with a speech-language pathologist may be helpful.
8. Dyseidetic Dyslexia
Individuals with dyseidetic dyslexia tend to have a good grasp of phonics, but struggle most with common, everyday sight words. Furthermore, they are often picture thinkers. The spelling of someone with dyseidetic dyslexia can typically be sounded out by their reader, although the spelling may not be correct and/or there may be some letter reversals.*
*It’s considered typical to reverse letters such as ‘b’ and ‘d’ when writing until the end of grade 2. Therefore, letter reversals do not automatically mean the child will struggle with reading or writing.
9. Mixed Dyslexia
With mixed dyslexia, there is a combination of factors playing a role in the child’s difficulty with reading. For example, it may be that this individual struggles with both the sounding out of words as well as the recognition of common sight words. These difficulties are happening in spite of working on each of these skills consistently.
10. Difficulty with Comprehension
A difficulty with reading comprehension involves your child being able to read the words on a page, but struggling to recall what he/she is reading and/or with a deeper level of understanding. This is different than social thinking. A difficulty with comprehension may simply be that your child is not yet focusing on key details in what he/she is reading. Perhaps the act of reading is impacting comprehension and there may be a discrepancy between comprehension scores when reading independently and using an audiobook. Regardless, something is interfering with fully comprehending and/or fully recalling what your child is reading.
An Approach to Reading That Targets Your Child’s Specific Needs is Everything
Considering the 10 reasons your child may be struggling with reading listed above, it’s time to move beyond the traditional approach of teaching reading. It’s time to move to an approach that will target your child’s specific reading needs. This is what will allow for the best growth in the shortest amount of time.
Not targeting the root of a child’s struggle with reading is the equivalent of expecting your child to be good at a sport while never working on a specific skill needed for that sport. For example, expecting your child to consistently sink a free throw in basketball, but only working on dribbling. This is what’s happening for our children when the same approaches to reading are repeatedly used, but the skill they actually need specific to them is not being targeted.
This is the kind of approach that is too often used with our children when it comes to reading. A single ‘one size fits all’ approach is provided. Yet that approach does nothing to target the reason our child is struggling with reading in the first place. The expectation is that if we just read more with our child or do more worksheets, it will eventually click. This leads to parents feeling guilty… that they are doing everything the teachers or tutors suggest, yet their child continues to struggle with reading. Believe me when I say that your child’s struggle with reading is NOT your fault!
What a Struggle with Reading Does NOT Mean
Notice how none of the reasons in this post had to do with your child’s level of intelligence?!? This is because a struggle with reading isn’t dependent on your child’s level of intelligence. In fact, to be diagnosed with a reading disability, your child has to have an Average to Above Average level of intelligence!
Many successful people have struggled with reading. Jennifer Aniston, Steven Spielberg, Richard Branson, Jamie Oliver, Octavia Spencer, and Henry Winkler are just a few of these people.
How Do You Effectively Help Your Child with Reading?
I started Y Literacy because I’m on a mission to help other parents work efficiently through the reading process with their struggling young readers.
No matter what you do, if you truly wish to effectively help your child with reading, it will be imperative to target the root of your child’s struggle with reading.
Not sure how to do this? Y Literacy offers an eBook, Higher Level Reading. This eBook breaks down the difficulties with reading mentioned in this post. It then provides simple and targeted solutions for working through each of these reading difficulties. The eBook also gives explicit instruction for fostering a love of reading. You can be well on your way to effectively helping your child with reading for the low, one-time price of just $17!
Y Literacy also offers a premium course, Winning at Reading, for parents of struggling young readers. This course consists of 12 core learning modules, in which you only need to work through the ones specific to your child after the first 3. There are numerous audio and visual lessons and demonstrations as well as downloadable PDF documents for your personal use.
With either of these options, I’m confident that your child will quickly be on a successful reading path.
How About You?
Do any of the difficulties with reading mentioned in this post resonate with you or your child? Let me know in the comments below!