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6 Signs of a Struggling Reader

Statistics show us that there are many children not reading at the appropriate level for their age. By the time these children reach adulthood they have often become part of the 48% of adults who cannot read well enough to participate fully in their everyday lives.  This alarming statistic does not have to be a reality. What if we could identify students who were struggling and take action to support them in their reading development?  The truth is that we can!

All teachers need to be on the lookout for signs of a potential reading difficulty so that they can provide this intervention quickly.  These signs may include:

  1. Difficulty developing phoneme-grapheme correspondence. The student may need many more exposures to letters than their peers in order to remember them and then longer still to develop this recognition to automaticity.
  2. Poor memory – after an absence or even just the weekend, the student may easily forget things that they had previously learned.
  3. Delay in developing phonological and phonemic skills.  It may take a long time to develop oral blending and segmenting.
  4. Blending with graphemes may not move much beyond sounding out.
  5. Segmenting for spelling may be difficult beyond 3 or 4 sounds.
  6. Stilted, slow reading even after several years of reading instruction

The above are signs of a potential reading difficulty such as dyslexia, but not all students who are struggling readers have a difficulty.  Many are instructional casualties who have developed inefficient strategies through outdated teaching methods such as multi-cueing.

Signs of ineffective reading strategies are:

  • Using pictures to guess what a word might be
  • Saying the first sound and then guessing the rest of the word
  • Skipping words when they don’t know what it is
  • Stopping when the student is unsure of a word without making an attempt to read the word
  • Wildly guessing what words might be
  • Not noticing when an obvious error has been made (not attending to comprehension)
  • Stilted, slow reading
  • Inserting letters where they don’t belong
  • Not knowing how to read vowel digraphs (ow, ou) or less common consonant digraphs (gn, kn)
  • Leaving off suffixes when reading

Regardless of the causes of a reading challenge, we need to be able to take steps in order to support children’s reading development.  As teachers, we aren’t qualified to determine the cause of a child’s reading struggles, however we can step in and provide the support that gets a child on the road to reading success. 

So what happens after you discover that a child is a struggling reader?

Step 1 – check all school records including speaking with your special education teacher to determine whether this has already been identified and acted upon

Step 2 – Do some diagnostic assessment to ascertain exactly which areas the student is having difficulty with.  You can read more here and here.

Step 3 – Talk with the student’s family to discuss your concerns.

Step 4 – Create a plan to support the student’s skill development

Step 5 – Monitor progress and keep families informed

Step 6 – Adjust the plan as needed

Knowing what to look for to identify struggling readers is vital to enable you to support students effectively. Once your struggling readers are on your radar, you can take steps to get them on the road to reading success.

In April and May I am running a “Supporting Struggling Readers” Teach Along.  If you would like to find out when further information about this Teach Along is available, click here.

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