My seven-year-old is really struggling to read and I don’t know how to help him. Do you haveany advice?
I know how this feels, it is so upsetting for both of you to be finding reading together so difficult.
Firstly it’s important to let him know that it’s not his fault that he finds it hard and that you are going to help him to make it easier.
Imagine a wall built of bricks – each brick needs to be really secure or the wall will fall down. If a child is not confident in each of the early stages of learning to read he cannot make the progress with ease. Many children are required to move on too soon before all the building blocks are in place. If you go back to basics and check all the pieces are in place you may find he begins to make progress really fast!
So check that he knows all his letters phonetically – “a” as in apple…. The letters you use should all be lowercase – a,b,c not A B C. Check that he knows the sounds of th, sh and ch.
Once he can identify the letters easily and quickly you can go on to building words – bat, sit, that and so on.
If he confuses 2 letters consistently such as “b” and “d” or the sounds for “a” and “e” just work with one of the letters until that one is really well known.
There are many words that we use frequently that are not easily sounded out phonetically and these need to be learned.
The most common 100 words can be downloaded and written onto cards or post-it-notes and used for games. Place 10 of the words on the floor and hide the same words around the house, look for the words and match them to the master sheet. Only work with a few at a time.
Once a few words are well known you could write a story for him to read using the words you know he can read with his name and any other names he knows – siblings, a pet maybe. You can also write a sentence on a piece of card and cut it up into individual words and ask him to put the words in the right order.
Take it slowly with lots of encouragement. Find a cozy place to read and make sure he is not tired or stressed. If he is reluctant, start by reading to him and let him guess at some of the words. Once he is reading, allow him to reread the same book over and over to build his confidence.
If he trips up over a difficult word don’t let him struggle over it but help either spell it out or tell him what it says so that the flow of the reading is not stilted. Reading rhythm is important so try to encourage reading for as long as possible and when he gets tired take it in turns.
When you are reading to him, use your finger to follow the words so he can “read” with you.
Be patient and he will succeed!
Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anne Revell is a special education, behaviour and parenting consultant who is a part-time Revelstoke resident.