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.


Visualizing: The 7th 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.


Its beauty seemed to strike the child dumb. She leaned back in the buggy, her thin hands clasped before her, her face lifted rapturously to the white splendor above. Even when they had passed out and were driving down the long slope to Newbridge she never moved or spoke. Still with rapt face she gazed afar into the sunset west, with eyes that saw visions trooping splendidly across that glowing background. Through Newbridge, a bustling little village where dogs barked at them and small boys hooted and curious faces peered from the windows, they drove, still in silence.

This is an excerpt from one of my favorite books called Anne of Green Gables.  This was also the very first passage where I was hooked in reading because of how vividly I could picture the scene above.  I was not a highly effective reader as a child.  I struggled with comprehension and one of the big reasons that I struggled so much was because I specifically could not see the movie in my head.

Highly effective readers can see the movie all of the time.  They read something and then they can tell you what they read because it is like pressing replay on the remote control.  It is easy for them because they just replay it in their mind and tell you what happened.

Other readers struggle all of the time or some of the time, just like I did.  So how can we help readers see the movie in their head?

1.  Increase their vocabulary

2.  Eliminate distracting thoughts

3.  Be alert when reading

4.  Ask the reader what she sees

First, if there are too many words that a reader does not know the meaning of, then this will hinder a movie from happening in the mind.  You can try doing a word of the day program to increase words, but even if you are consistant that is only 365 words a year.  So implementing this with teaching the child how to figure out words on her own will be highly beneficial.  This strategy is known as context clues.  The child uses the words and sentences around a word to figure out the meaning of an unknown word.  For example, in the passage above is the word rapturously.  Some clues to this word are given by the way the girl is holding her hands.  The passage says, "hands clasped before her."  It also talks about the splendor of her surroundings.  From this I can picture a girl that is wide eyed and paying close attention to detial.

Once the reader has used the details around the word to get a feel for it, then she can look it up if she needs more details.  She can do this using a physical dictionary or an electronic dictionary in the form of an app or the internet.  I personally like to type into google, define rapturously, and the definition is the first thing that comes up.  The definitions are pretty kid friendly most of the time.  When I do this I see that the definition is ecstatically.

Also a reader should pay attention to how many words are unknown to her.  If there are 5 or more on a page, then the book is too hard for her and she should look for a book that will be a better fit.

Another thing that hinders readers from understanding what they are reading are distracting thoughts.  I know you know what I am talking about.  It happens to all of us.  You spend 5 mintues reading only to realize that all of a sudden you don't know anything that you have just read.  When this happens, most people go back and reread if they feel it is necessary.  The key though, is to name what is happening so that you can do something about it quicker.  If you know that you are having distracting thoughts, like what am I going to have for dinner, then you can stop having them as frequently.

Readers's are always able to make better mind movies when they are alert vs. when they are tired.  So, when your child is reading, make sure to do so when she is alert.  It is easier to be distracted  when you are tired and it is makes it much more difficult to pay attention and create mind movies.

Lastly, talking about the mind movies you see can make them even more vivid.  You can talk about details that are there as well as details that are not in the book, but you see anyways.  If your child just says they don't know or they can't do it, then have the child read what she has read again and talk about it together.  Begin to paint the pictures for her so she can see how the words in the books create pictures in her mind.

Visualizing is the habit that will make and break effective readers.  You absolutely cannot be an effective reader without being able to visualize.  This is why there is so much emphasis on this strategy in schools.  So if you want to aid visualizing for a child, then help increase their vocabulary, help them identify distracting thoughts, make sure the child is alert, and ask them to describe in their words what they see.

What are some things that you do when you realize that you are not visualizing?

Highly Effective Readers Figure out Meanings of New and Unknown Words

Highly Effective Readers Figure out Meanings of New and Unknown Words

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.


You can just tell when a highly effective reader does not know the meaning of a word.  They have developed strategies to figure them out.  If they are reading with an adult, they may just ask what that word means.   As I was reading the book Slime Wars by Debbie Dadey with my daughter Katelyn, she said, "What does tarred Image 10-22-13 at 10.29 AMmean?"  She had never heard of that term before, but the best part was she didn't just keep reading.  She had the desire to know the meaning of the word.    This is what highly effective readers do.

You might be thinking, yah when kids don't know the meaning they ask.  Well kids who are not effective readers have not developed the skill to always ask.   In fact, they will just keep reading and miss part of the humor of the book.  When I asked Katelyn what her favorite part of the book was, she had mentioned when the girls were tarred and feathered with honey.  She never would have had the opportunity to fall in love with that part if the meaning of tarred had just passed her by.

Another way that kids are able to figure out meanings of new words is through context.  They are able to read all of the words around it to see if they can figure out the meaning on their own.  If they can, they keep on reading.  However, there are times when they can't, and they need to utilize other tricks.

Here are some of the other tricks that they can utilize.

1.  Go to google and type "define tarred and feathered".  Yes, you can type phrases for a definition.  This is very helpful.

2.  Click on the down arrow to see synonyms and antonyms.

3.  Click on images to be able to actually see what it looks like if you would like.

4.  Look it up the traditional way in a physical dictionary or on an iPad.

5.  Look for prefixes and suffixes to see if you can gather meaning clues.

6. Keep a notebook of all the new words that you see and write down their definitions and the context you found it.

Kids who are not highly effective will just skip the word, and this is going to impede their comprehension.  Kids need to be able to widen their vocabularies on a daily basis so that they can expand their word knowledge.  The larger their word knowledge, the more they will understand when they come to new texts with those words in it.

Our language can be complex, especially when you take into account the multiple meanings of words.  Not only that, but words also have connotations, and different feelings associated with them.  Talking about words with all readers can only help them to become the most highly effective readers that they possibly can be.

What do you do to promote learning new words with your readers?


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

Explore more infographics like this one on the web's largest information design community - Visually.

Day 21 of the 31 Days to Become a Better Reader Challenge: Suffixes

Day 21 of the 31 Days to Become a Better Reader Challenge: Suffixes

One Day 14 we took a look at the most common prefixes, now we are going to focus on the most common suffixes and why they are important.  When kids are reading, one of the biggest mistakes I see as a reading tutor is that kids will leave the ending off. The ending has a big meaning.  It shows when and how something happened.  It is similar to this loaf of bread.  You can't make a loaf of bread without the two end pieces.  You may not like them, but you still need them.

When I am tutoring students I have to continually draw my student’s attention to the ending of the word and have him/her try again.  The confusion is that these suffixes have multiple pronunciations, which adds to their complexity.  For example, the ending –ed is pronounced as /d/, /t/, and /ed/.  It doesn’t have one rule.  So I specifically ask my students to think about which ending sounds right.  They try them out and they always seem to pick the correct one.


So the most common suffixes are as follows.  These suffixes make up 93% of the suffixes that your child will find in books.


S, es ing ly Er, or Ion, tion, ation, ition
Ible, able Al, ial y nes Ity, ty
ment ic Ous, eous, ious en er
Ive, ative, itive ful less est ed


Does your child leave off the ending of the word?  Does your child always know how to pronounce the ending of the word?  These are things to think about.  But here is the critical key, what meaningful purpose do these endings really have.  Discuss this with your child so they can see the importance.  Below are the meanings.

  • -S, es – means more than      one
  • -ing – action word
  • -ly – characteristics of
  • -er, -or, - person      connected with
  • -ion, -tion, -ation,      -ition – act or process
  • -ible, -able – can be done
  • -al, -ial, - having      characteristics of
  • -y – characterized by
  • -ness – state of
  • -ity, -ty – state of
  • -ment – actin or process
  • -ic – having characteristics      of
  • -ous, -eous, -ious –      possessing the qualities of
  • -en – made of
  • -er – comparing
  • -ive, -ative, -itive –      adjective form of a noun
  • -ful – full of
  • -less – without
  • -est – comparing


P.S.  Don’t be concerned if your child is leaving off the ending, just have him/her look at the ending and try it again.