Blog Post
Four Ways To Help Struggling Readers

Reading is a skill that serves as a building block for learning and contributes to overall development. However, there can be instances where students struggle to make critical reading gains due to factors like personal learning styles or a lack of a supportive environment.

Beyond affecting academic performance and success, reading difficulties can have an impact on a child’s wellbeing, particularly in how they process, regulate, and express their emotions. A study among children aged 9 to 12 years who had reading difficulties found that early identification and intervention can promote children’s healthy socio-emotional adjustment and help them cope with reading-related stress.

As such, it is essential that parents and teachers reach out and offer their help to children who experience difficulties learning to read so they can thrive. Here are four ways to do so:

1. Guide students through scaffolding

In the same way that scaffolding is used in construction as temporary support for workers, instructional scaffolds are designed to assist students in approaching new tasks and concepts until they progress through greater understanding and independence.

As opposed to jumping into new and challenging material, educators can first provide background information and even pre-teach difficult words and terms. Making time for reading during class time also helps reduce students’ frustration and discouragement as they attempt to read and understand unfamiliar texts. This way, students can read along with their teachers and peers. They can also ask questions as they go through the journey of reading.

2. Introduce a variety of materials and activities

Children can also struggle with reading when they do not find the material fun and interesting. Outside of traditional texts like novels and textbooks, they can instead be introduced to the more digestible and approachable option of graphic novels.

Graphic novels build upon visual learning, which is usually the learning style that students with reading difficulties have. They are an effective tool for reading comprehension; kids are able to understand the basic elements of a storyline and make connections between the images and the words that go with them. Parents can supplement this enjoyment of reading by using multisensory materials at home, such as audio-visual story books and tactile magnets, stickers, or letter tiles.

3. Understand every child’s unique needs

Children do not just have varied learning styles; they also have unique needs that can affect how they learn and approach reading.

For instance, children with low-income backgrounds can struggle with reading due to a focus on survival needs over education. In such cases, there is a need for professionals with a background in social work who work in education, especially as they can provide direct therapeutic services. They can provide children with support and help teachers with students’ often unspoken needs and struggles. 

Reading difficulties can also be attributed to health conditions. A 2020 article from the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research found that 25% of school-age children with speech sound disorders (SDD) were at an increased risk for reading difficulties. In this light, parents and teachers of children with SDD can work with professionals like speech-language pathologists (SLPs) to assess developmental delays and identify specialized interventions.


4. Allow children to reflect and imagine

Finally, reading-related challenges can be approached by shifting a child's traditional notion of reading. Rather than framing reading as a linear process with no room for interruptions, communication researchers found that short reading breaks can help children cultivate their capacity for creativity, imagination, and critical thinking. Struggling readers are therefore able to catch up when they are given the time and space to step back, reflect, and ask questions about what they have just read.

As a literacy organization, Story Shares reimagines the ways children can tap into the foundational and transformative power of reading. It is dedicated to making books and other reading resources more diverse and accessible so that kids, teens, and even adults become compelled to read and learn more about themselves and the world around them.


Written by Gracey Waters for