Help Me Teach My Child to Learn to Read: Mom of a Struggling Reader

When I compare how my child reads aloud to other kids, I can see that he struggles to read in comparison. Even his youngest cousin reads the game directions easily, while my child struggles with every few words.

Mom Support: I have tried helping him by listening to him read a book from school, but that only seems to end with both of us being upset.

Tutor: Next, we tried a tutor from the local high school. She listened to his reading and helped him with difficult words by playing some games to help him remember these words. She has started using alphabet phonics worksheets to work on the sounds of the letters. He is willing to try to read with her as she is the “reading expert” and not just a mom like me.

He has gained some confidence, but I feel we are missing some key ways to help him, now that we know that he is having problems.

Additional Program: When I searched for programs on the internet, I come up with over 300,000 hits to help him, but I still don’t know which is best for him. I wish I can find some guidance to select a reasonable path.

Sound Familiar?

If this situation sounds familiar, rest assured that there are many suitable solutions, but first you need to understand how to select an option to help your child. If your struggling reader is fairly young, most likely, he or she needs a better understanding of the sound-symbol relationship. Many parents call this approach “phonics.” But not every phonics worksheet book is built on the best research for learning to read. However, there are many suitable stellar programs to guide your way.

Once you have made a wise choice, you can follow the research-based program with confidence that you are making a significant difference in supporting your child to learn how to read.

But First, a Little Background to Enhance Your Understanding

The National Reading Panel has identified five essential components of learning to read: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Some are more important to beginning readers, and others come into play as the skills develop. There are many strategies and programs that include all of these components.

The younger the child, the more likely they need support with phonemic awareness and phonics first.

Early readers benefit from systematic phonics instruction. Among students in grades K-1, phonics instruction led to improvements in decoding ability and reading comprehension across the board,” according to the National Reading Panel. Children at risk of developing future reading problems, children with disabilities, and children from all socio-economic backgrounds all benefited. Later research reviews have confirmed that systematic phonics instruction is effective for students with disabilities and shown that it also works for English-language learners,” confirms the Education Week website.

Which Program? The “Right Sounds” are Critical

But how do you know which phonics worksheet program is suitable? There are many from which to select. Some are as simple as purchasing a workbook, and others involve an entire systematic approach.

EVIDENCE-BASED: It is vital to choose a program that begins with a research-based approach. Kids must be familiar with the look and sounds of the letters in order to read independently.

INTRODUCTION OF SOUNDS: One of the easiest ways to determine if you are looking at a researched-based program is the order of the introduction of the sounds. The optimal order for introduction, not A, B, C, but focusses on the most natural sounds of the letters to identify. The first level of letters includes s, a, t, i, p, and n.

With these few sounds, words can be made, such as sat, tip, tap, pin. Practice should focus on identifying the individual sounds and then on blending the sounds together to form words. These 3 letter words are often called CVC words (consonant, vowel, consonant). Many excellent programs also group words into rhyming families, such as tip, sip, and nip.

COMPREHENSIVE: Gradually the phonics program expands in a systematic way to eventually include all of the sounds of the letters, including sounds that work together such as “sh” in sheep and other phonemes that make up the English language. This approach will take years to master but is a solid foundation is excellent reading skills.

Research-Backed Approaches That Make a Difference

The key to these programs’ success is that they are based on research about which sounds to introduce first and that their approach is built on a system that gradually unfolds all of the quirks of the English language. Indeed, there are many words in the English language that cannot be sounded out, such as orange, one, or friend. In great programs, these sight words are addressed logically by grouping similar words and other strategies.

Another critical factor is that learning to read is not a short process as it will take years of work to cover the many different idiosyncrasies of English. So expect that a worthwhile program will take several years of dedication.

Standard Practices that Do not Make a Significant Difference

In the past 40 years, a systematic approach to reading has been trendy in most schools. But this system is not that helpful to struggling readers. This system relies on 3 approaches and champions making guesses. It uses cues such as “Does the word fit into the sentence?” “Does the word match the meaning of the sentence?” and “Does the word look like a pattern you already know?” These 3 cueing systems became very popular, but they are not to be used in place of trying to sound out an unknown word.

Research does show that an emphasis on these types of cueing system draws the child’s attention away from the details of the letters in words and interferes with using a phonics-based approach. It has been shown that when a proficient reader meets a word, they do not recognize, the successful strategy they use is first to try to sound it out. And then, the skilled reader may use one of the 3 other strategies to confirm the results of attacking the word phonetically. Any effective program will emphasize trying to sound out a word first. The child can then use any of the other cueing systems to confirm it is the right word.

Any program that first advises a child to guess the meaning of the word without first trying to sound it out is counter-productive. It leads a child to use a less effective strategy. The first approach for any unknown word should be, “Can you start sounding it out?

But Phonics Worksheet Exercises are Not Enough to Improve Reading!

By now, you should be shouting. “I have done phonics exercises with my child, but they have not made a significant difference.” You would be right with this criticism. Whenever you teach a concept, it should be followed up with the right practice material.

Think about coaching situations. Just as in soccer coaching, first, the team perfects a play during practice, but until they use it successfully in a game situation, the play is just an exercise and not a tool for success. It is the same principle as reading.

All of the phonics lessons need to be followed up with a reading practice that highlights the skill being taught to solidify the knowledge just learned. Only through targeted reading passages does the newly acquired skill become automatic. A complete learn-to-read program includes passages and books in which new skills are solidified through reading aloud.

What About Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension?

So far, we have covered phonemic awareness and phonics in this discussion. But there are 3 other significant areas according to the National Reading Panel: fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

While these 3 aspects are important, phonemic awareness and phonics are the first critical steps. This is the place to start with struggling readers.

Critical Aspects to “Look For” in a Comprehensive Program for Struggling Readers

  • Based on phonics and phonemic awareness
  • Is systematic
  • Has support for years of development
  • Includes practice reading passages related to lessons taught
  • Has guidelines or placement tests to assess what your child already knows
  • highlights videos or information to guide parents in the delivery of the program – what to do and what not to do
  • Is appealing through multisensory and multimedia exercises
  • Is backed positive parent testimonials

Comparison of Popular Programs

ProgramAll About Reading 
Hooked On PhonicsJolly PhonicsTeach Your Child
to read
in 100 Lessons

Comprehensive5 level program 8 Level program Starts with sounds &
builds in
Starts with sounds,
moves through blending
& into reading

Tutorials for ParentsHow to” ArticlesPhonics videos to
explain concepts
Training courses and e-learningFREE videos 

Length of program5 years4 years7 yearsfrom age 3 to 6

Placement Testsyes

Apps, Electronic games, etcPhonogram &
letter tiles
– 275 interactive games
– Learn to Read App
music and games available

Music100 songssongs available

multitude of resources

Guarantee1 year1st month free,
30 day

Based on ResearchOrton-Gillingham approach
logical sequence 
with no gaps
over 5 million families &
thousands of
Aligns with common core
case studies &
Dr. Phyllis Haddox,
conducted research
with positive results.

Testimonials/ Awards LinkAll About Learning

Check out the blog review of “All About Reading” from the Simple Home School website, written by Jamie All About Reading story of an Older Child.

Your struggling reader will benefit greatly from a well-thought-out phonics program.

Related Articles

1. How to Select a Phonics Program: 5 Criteria   Start prereading skills early.

2. Parents, get some advice from an expert teacher for helping your young child learn about reading. How Do I Teach reading to My Preschooler Testimonial: Hira Adnan thanku, it’s really considerable.

3. Best Phonics Programs for Moms’ Teaching Styles

We'd like to hear from you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s