10 Signs of a Struggling Reader and What You Can do About it

10 Signs of a Struggling Reader and What You Can do About it

You may be one of those people that wonders if your child is struggling with reading.  All kids develop at different rates and each grade level has different
expectations.  Here you are going to learn what signs to look for and identify if your child fits in that category.  You will also have the opportunity to take a look to see what you can do for your child if she is struggling with that area.  At the end of this post there is a video of a call that I did teaching parents what they can do to determine if their child is struggling.  So here are the 10 signs to look for to determine if you indeed have a struggling reader.

1.  They ask you to read something for them.Young man fallen asleep after long reading

2.  They ask you how to spell a word.

3.  They come up with excuses not to read.

4. They read word by word.

5.  They can't answer questions about what they just read.

6.  They don't make comments when they are reading.

7.  They skip words.

8.  They slur words when reading and hope that you don't notice.

9.  They keep asking you the meaning of words.

10.  They read as fast and they can.

We are going to take a look at each of these specifically and figure out what the real problem is and what some solutions are to the problem.

They ask you to read something for them

Now asking you to read something is not a problem unless it seems like they are constantly asking you to do it.  The problem is, they are suffering from a lack of self confidence about their reading.  They don't see themselves as being able to accurately read what is before them.  So you will want to find out specifically why they are asking you to read it for them.

Ask your child why they need you to read it for them.  Is it because they don't know how to read certain words or because they need help understanding a concept?  You will want to delve more into it to determine that.

Another thing you can do is ask your child to read it to you.  That way you can listen to see what the problem seems to be.  You will be able to listen to whether they are struggling with a word or they have a blank look like they aren't understanding a concept.

They ask you how to spell a word

Kids that struggle with reading also struggle with spelling.  Spelling is actually a harder task than reading because it requires you to have mastered the phonics rules, which don't always make sense.  The problem here is also a lack of self confidence.  They don't trust that they can write the word correctly, so they ask you because surely you know how to do it.  Why risk being wrong, when you have the answer.  The thing is, you don't want to be their solution.  You can't travel around with them all day long to help them with their spelling.

So, give your child an opportunity to try it on their own first.  If your child spells it correctly, then you can congratulate her and build up her self confidence.  If it is wrong, then you can write the word the correct way next to it.  Then your child can look for the errors that she made and then write it the correct way.  To give some added practice you can have your child write the word an additional 5 to 10 times to begin to lock in how to spell the word correctly.

They come up with excuses not to read

One of the problems here is motivation.  Your child would rather be doing anything else in the world than reading and the thought of having to read sounds like pure torture.  Find out why your child doesn't want to read, by asking her.  Sometimes it is because they just haven't found the right books yet.  To find books that your child will love, you can go to www.goodreads.com and type in the search bar "3rd grade books".  Insert your child's grade level or reading level and find some books that other kids their age are enjoying.

Many kids love spending time with their parents.  Some like to snuggle, some like to be close by.  Whatever the situation is for you and your child, next time do it with a book.  You can simply read to your child or switch off from page to page.  This way you can model great reading habits and motivate them more to want to read.

They read word by word

Nothing can sound more monotonous than a child that reads word by word.  The biggest problem here is fluency.  We want reading to sound like we are talking and not to sound robotic.

Repeated readings of the same text can be a way for kids to break this word by word reading pattern.  There are some fun poems on www.gigglepoetry.com that you can check out.  There are also some poetry theater readings that you can do with your child that can help them with practicing a text for meaning.  Have your child perform the poems to other family members or call grandma and grandpa to listen to it.  The poems will be entertaining for your child, and everyone will laugh.  Making reading fun is a sure way to break that word by word reading.

They can't answer questions about what they just read

The problem here is comprehension.  A child can sound like he or she is a good reader, but not actually be reading to understand.  Being able to sound out words and read them correctly is only part of the reading process.  We want kids to be able to think about what they are reading and make meaning out of it.  A comprehension problem can be based off of not thinking about the words, but it can also be based on not knowing the meaning of words.  Pay attention to what the situation could be for your child.

As you are listening to your child read, have her summarize at the end of a page periodically.  This will give you an opportunity to see if she is processing what she is reading.  If she doesn't know how to do that, then you can model with her when you are reading books to her at night.  After you are done reading a page, then you can summarize what is happening.

They don't make comments when they are reading

As we are reading, we are thinking about what we are reading.  However a child that has no thinking going on during their reading is purely just reading the words and not comprehending the text.  As we are reading many different kinds of thoughts run through our head.  We make statements, such as, "Hmmm...I didn't know that."  We also make predictions about what is going to happen next.  We ask different kinds of questions, and we monitor our reading for understanding.  Lastly, we make connections.  We can make connections between the book and our life, other books, and the world.

This is where reading aloud to your child can help.  It gives you the opportunity to be able to model the thoughts that go through your head when you are reading, so that they can begin to understand what kinds of thoughts could be going through their head when they are reading.

They skip words

The problem here could be phonics or a lack of sight words in their long term memory.  Sometimes kids skip words because they don't want to take the time to figure them out.  Sometimes they are focusing on the next big word that they see.  If you notice that your child is doing this you can have her go back and read it.  If the word is too difficult, then you can help her break it up.

Sometimes though a word cannot be read phonetically, and it just has to be memorized.  To help your child memorize the word, you can collect difficult words on index cards.  On one side write the word.  On the other side you can write a sentence that your child comes up with.  Then you can practice the words that your child has difficulty with and increase her ability to read sight words.

They slur words when they are reading and hope that you don't notice

This is usually a phonics problem.  The child doesn't know the word, so they slur it to try to skip under the radar.  Talk to your child about the importance of reading the sounds distinctly.  This will help her be able to retain the meaning of what she is reading.  Also, make her go back to the word and read it again.  You can try to help her break up the word to read it, or add it to the sight word index cards to practice.

They keep asking the meaning of words

When this happens, the problem is vocabulary.  Your child needs to increase her vocabulary.  An easy way to do this is to speak to your child more.  As adults our vocabularies are much larger than our children, so the more they hear us talk, the more they pick up words and the meanings of words.  It has been proven that children who have parents that talk to them for longer periods during the day have a much larger vocabulary than children who do not.

Make sure to eat dinner together and talk about your days as a family.  Also, the more that you read to your child, the more words that he or she will pick up accidentally.  The more opportunities that you provide for your child to hear new words the better.  There has been no research that shows kids learn new vocabulary words from watching t.v., so limit tube time and exchange it for you time.

They read as fast as they can

Again, this is a fluency problem.  The child has gotten in their head that the faster they read, the better reader they are, and this just isn't true.  There are different times when reading fast is necessary.  For example, when you need to quickly skim and scan to find an answer.  However, to read as fast as you can just so that you can be done quicker has never proven to help out with overall comprehension, so have her slow down and really take in what she is reading.

Motivation could be another factor here as well.  So whenever you have the opportunity to provide choices for your child, you will want to do so.  Kids choosing what they want to read has always been a huge motivator to slow down and understand what they are reading.

For more tips on each of these signs you can watch the video below.  Is there a sign that you have noticed from your child, and you are wondering if they have a problem?  Let me know, and we can brainstorm some solutions that might help.


Highly Effective Readers Don’t Skip the Punctuation: The 6th Habit of Highly Effective Readers

Highly Effective Readers Don’t Skip the Punctuation: The 6th Habit of Highly Effective Readers

Well, it is that time of year again.  My kids are off to school, and I am excited to begin writing a brand new book.  I will be creating the book through this blog, and you will have free access to all of it’s content here.  This book/blog series is called Seven Habits of Highly Effective Readers and will give you information on what you can do to create an avid reader.


Closely related to expression is punctuation.  Punctuation is like the traffic signals of reading.  If you skip a period or a comma all of a sudden things begin to not -attention-155554_640make sense and you become lost in your reading.

Highly effective readers sound so good when they are reading because they pay attention to the punctuation.  They understand that they need to come to a full stop when they see a period and that they need to stop quickly for a comma.  They also make their voice go up at the end when they see a period and use emphasis when there is an exclamation point.

Kids who are not highly effective readers do not always know to do this.  They read past the period and then begin taking breaths where there is no punctuation.  Then all of a sudden things begin to slowly not make any sense.  So the reader trudges on because they know they are required to keep reading.  They are not able to visualize what is happening, and they become bored very quickly and would rather pick up their xbox game than make their brain do so much work.

Here is an easy way to teach kids that are struggling with punctuation to pay attention to it.  Either in a book or a copied page from a book, have the child put two slashes (//) over all of the periods and one slash (/) over the commas.  Then have the child put an arrow going up over the question mark and a star over the exclamation points.  Here is what each of these marks represents.

// = knock two times

/ = knock one time

↑ = make your voice go up at the end

* = excitement

After the child has marked up the page, have her read it.  When she comes to the // she needs to physically knock on a table two times.  When she comes to /, then she needs to knock just one time.  This slowly begins training the reader to pay attention to what they are reading.

Often kids who do not read punctuation correctly will put punctuation marks where they do not belong.  For example, the most typical place a child will add a period is at the end of a line.  In simpler easy text, books are written with periods at the end of the line.  However, as a text becomes more complicated kids need to learn to go from one line to the next without adding a pause.  Adding a pause at the end of the line will cause comprehension issues for readers.  It is amazing how just one little pause can make the difference, but it truly does.

Another thing that you can do, without marking up the text is to just ask the reader to read the sentence again and stop appropriately at the punctuation.  Sometimes I will pose questions like, "What do we do at a period."  Then  the reader says, "Stop."  Then I say, "Great, try it again."  This a non-threatening way to begin getting kids to stop appropriately.  Some kids respond better to one way than another way.  So, it is always good to have a couple of tricks in the bag that you can use.  If one way doesn't work so well, then you can try a different way.

Have you ever heard a reader read without stopping appropriately at the punctuation?  How do you think this affected their reading?


How Do you Know what to Teach Kids that are Struggling with Reading?

I get asked this question all of the time.  Well, even though each child's reading difficulties may come in many different forms and in different areas, I am able to look at how they succeed with the 5 pillars of reading.  If there is an area that they are specifically struggling with, then I provide instruction in that specific area.  I love being able to help all kids who struggle with reading and make it easier for them.  Most kids who I have worked with has had a strong desire to get better.  This makes instructing them extremely easy.


Here are more details about each of these pillars.  Does your child struggle in any of these?



The 5 Pillars of Reading Instruction

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Supertintin Rocks!

Supertintin Rocks!

I have just recently begun using a new skype recorder and I am extremely impressed with it.  It is called Supertintin and I am excited about all of the amazing features that it offers.

First, let me explain why I like using Supertintin.  Supertintin is a tool that I can use with my students.   Last night I was using it to record a session and then I used it to play it back later on. I was able to hear this student from a new perspective.  During the session I was helping her with figuring out new words, but then afterwards after listening to the replay I realized that I also need to focus on fluency with her.  Her reading is very choppy and very little personality shows through when she is reading.  That is just one of the powers of Supertintin.  This tool is going to be so helpful with my students because their teacher is going to be more cognizant of their reading behaviors.

Before I begin working with a student I always start with an assessment.  One of the things I have always wanted to do is tape the child before I start working with her at the end to be able to see the improvements.  I currently have 25 students, so sometimes, even though I have written a report which tells me how much a child has improved, it would be really helpful have another resource to take a look at.  I think that this is a tool that parents would appreciate as well because we get accustomed to how our child is reading now and sometimes can’t see the amazing growth the child has made.

I also like the different features for recording that Supertintin offers.  Supertintin has it so that you can control which side of the webcam is being taped and allows you to tape both sides at the same time using the side by side feature.  You can even just choose to have the audio taped if you do not want to record the video.

Before you ever tape a skype session it is important to get the permission from the other person.  This can be done via you simply asking and then giving you a verbal yes or you can put it in writing and have them respond ahead of time.

I plan on using this wonderful tool not only with my students, but also to help promote up and coming authors.  I love sharing great books with my readers and I think it makes it much more interesting for them when they can meet the author through my interviews.

For all of my readers this week, Supertintin is offering an opportunity to win your own copy.  So, comment below and tell us how you would use Supertintin and may just be the lucky winner.

Day 28 of 31 Days to Become a Better Reader: The Little Words

Day 28 of 31 Days to Become a Better Reader: The Little Words


One of the biggest questions I get asked is whether the little words matter when it comes to a child’s reading fluency or accuracy.  For example, the words a and the are often misread for each other and some reading instructors and parents will make sure the child goes back and fixes that mistake.  The biggest thing to be conscious of is the needs of the child.  If the child makes frequent mistakes when reading, then my focus is not going to be on the little words that do not change meaning.  However, if when the child is reading and the word he/she has put in does change the meaning, then I will have him or her go back and read it.


Since I mentioned that you will want to take into consideration the needs of the child, I have listed 4 different types of children below.  Determine which child seems like yours and then follow the suggestion for whether your focus should be on the little words or not.


Child A – Makes few errors has a high self-esteem – Absolutely have the child go back and read the word correctly.  He/she rarely makes a mistake and it won’t hurt his/her self-esteem.


Child B – Makes few errors has a low self-esteem – This is a tricky one.  While this child does not seem to make a lot of mistakes, their self esteem could be affected.  You are probably better off not worrying about it.


Child C – Makes a ton of errors and has a high-self esteem – If it changes the meaning of the text, have the child go back and reread it.  If it does not, then don’t worry about it.


Child D – Makes a ton of errors and has a low self-esteem – Definitely do not  bring a lot of attention to it.  You can say, “Try again” in the nicest voice possible or focus on the bigger words that seem to be inaccurate.  Also you want to base it off of why the child is reading it incorrectly.  Many times our eyes are focused on the next word instead of the word that we are actually reading.  So a child may know how to read a word, but read it incorrectly because of where he/she is putting his/her attention.


This is definitely a case by case and situation by situation call.  You want to remember that if you are constantly pointing out all of the words that a child is reading incorrectly, they will never go back and try to read it correctly on his/her own.  Also, his/her self-esteem will eventually take a beating and push the child into a state of resistance.  If you have ever tried to teach a resistant child, then you know what I mean.


For today, just be aware if your child is reading those little words incorrectly.  Take a note of how you respond to it and then check to see if it seems to be on par with the suggestions from above.


P.S. It is really hard to change old habits, like constantly correcting our children when they read incorrectly.  When you feel like you want to correct them, but you know you shouldn’t, take a deep breath and picture your mouth closed with peanut butter.

Day 9 of 31 Days to Become a Better Reader Challenge:  Summarizing

Day 9 of 31 Days to Become a Better Reader Challenge: Summarizing

So far we have seen how vocabulary, fluency, and phonics can impede comprehension. Now we are going to take a look at the inside thinking that happens. This is the metocognitive side of reading. Children need to be taught how to think about reading when they are reading. In other words they need to be thinking about their thinking.

Sometimes when a child is reading he/she ends up thinking about something else they are about to do, other than what they are engaged in. Or, a child is working so hard at figuring out the words, that there is literally no extra space available to think about his/her reading. Therefore, if we utilize some of the comprehension strategies when reading with our child, we will be able to guide them in how to know if he/she is understanding what is being read or if he/she is not understanding.

One of those strategies is summarizing. If a reader is understanding what is being read, then he/she is able to repeat what was read in his/her own words. A summary is just a couple of sentences about what was read verses a retell. A retell is when the reader tells you everything that they read. Sometimes in the beginning a reader needs guidance in this area. You can begin by summarizing your page and then having him/her summarize his/her page. Once your child becomes comfortable with this process you can have him/her summaraize at the end of the chapter.

If the child is able to summarize it shows the he/she is capable of storing the information he/she has read in his/her short term memory. This is extremely necessary in order to do a much more difficult comprehension strategy called synthesizing. As a parent it is not important to hit every single comprehension strategy that is out there. However, practice with some of the basic ones will prepare him/her for the higher level ones they will need to be able to implement as they move up in grade levels.

So, practice summarizing with your child, talking about the book that you are reading, and increase vocabulary by picking out one vocabulary word a day to focus on. Until next time, keep reading!

Day 7 of 31 Days to Become a Better Reader Challenge: Commas and Periods

Day 7 of 31 Days to Become a Better Reader Challenge: Commas and Periods


Yesterday we focused on how vocabulary can get in the way of our children understanding what they are reading and today we are going to look at another important element that drastically decreases comprehension.  Try reading this paragraph from Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald


She said we didn’t see you doing any tricks now go and put away the hose and the wheelbarrow and sweep up that broken glass dinner will be ready in about five minutes and it’s your favorite.


Now read the paragraph again, but this time with the correct punctuation in place.


She said, “We didn’t see you doing any tricks.  Now go and put away the hose and the wheelbarrow and sweep up that broken glass.  Dinner will be ready in about five minutes and it’s your favorite.


Did you notice the difference in how you understood that one paragraph with inserting the correct punctuation?


I have found that no matter how many times you tell a child to stop at a period and pause at a comma, that it doesn’t really sink in for them.  So, here is what I do to make the period and the comma become real living things.  I have the child knock twice at the period and knock once at the comma.  Since I do all of my tutoring online, I am actually able to introduce this idea by drawing on the commas and periods.  I will physically put two backslashes on the periods and one on the comma so that it pops out at them a little bit more.  When the child forgets to stop or pause correctly after we have worked with this method for awhile we are able to simply go back to the “Try again” model.  We ask them to try the sentence again or try the paragraph again.

You will be amazed at how much more information your child is able to retain as soon as you begin implementing this method.  It is amazing.  Here is to reading fluency interventions and here is to comprehension!  Keep reading.