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Questions + Answers

Reading & Dyslexia

Frequent questions

  • Question 1: What is dyslexia?
  • Question 2: I suspect my child might have dyslexia. What should I do?
  • Question 3: Can you recommend any books that are at a lower reading level but would still appeal to older students?
  • Question 4: Why can't my child re-read a word in a sentence that she just sounded out?
  • Question 5: How can I get my child with LD motivated to read more?
  • Question 6: My child has a learning disability and I'm concerned that the reading program her school uses is ineffective. Can you recommend a reading program?
  • Question 7: What can I do at home to help my second grader who struggles with reading?
  • Question 8: What strategies and programs do you recommend for teaching phonics and early literacy skills to preschoolers?
  • Question 9: I am looking for ways to improve my child's comprehension and speed reading skills. How do I go about this?
  • Question 10: What remedial reading methods work best for students with learning disabilities?
  • Question 11: Is there anything I can do at home to help my dyslexic child learn to read and spell?
  • Question 12: If my husband is dyslexic, is there a possibility that my children will be dyslexic too?
  • Question 13: I'm concerned that my kindergartener is not progressing with reading and writing at the rate of her classmates. We try to sit her down to practice sight words, but she loses interest and doesn't remember them the next day. How can I help her?
  • Question 14: If a child is reading aloud and is maintaining meaning, is it necessary that I correct every word he misreads?
  • Question 15: I would like to start teaching my 9-month old how to read, but he usually plays with books rather than reading them. How can I help him become a reader?
  • Question 16: I work with many adolescents who have poor reading abilities but I do not know much about teaching basic reading. How can I help them?
  • Question 17: What are some ways to help my daughter learn the names and sounds of letters? She is tired of simply using flashcards.
  • Question 18: I found a product online that claims to cure dyslexia. Is it bogus?
  • Question 19: My second grader is having a hard time focusing on one word at a time when reading. What can I do to help her?
  • Question 20: How can I help my son develop his reading comprehension abilities?

Expert answers

1) What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a language-based disability derived from differences in brain structure and brain function. Although dyslexia presents itself somewhat differently in each person, it has some common characteristics that can be determined through evaluation. You may find the following articles to be helpful:

For more information, browse Reading Rockets or contact the International Dyslexia Association.

2) I suspect my child might have dyslexia. What should I do?

It is important to address reading problems early so you can begin getting your child the appropriate help. The following articles describe characteristics common to students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities. You may find it helpful to read these articles to determine if you see similar characteristics in your child:

If, after reading these articles, you still suspect your child is showing signs of having a learning disability, it is within your rights as a parent to request a free educational evaluation through your public school. Whether or not he is found eligible for special services, the evaluation will help determine your child's academic strengths and weaknesses and how best he learns. The following articles describe the steps involved in the evaluation process, including your rights as a parent:

After the evaluation process is completed, you can use the information from the evaluation to help you make a decision about the next step in your child's educational path.

3) Can you recommend any books that are at a lower reading level but would still appeal to older students?

It can be difficult to find books that have high interest and are also written at a level so that children with reading challenges can enjoy them. A good starting point would be to talk to the special education teachers, reading specialist, and librarian at your child's school. In addition to recommended books, you may also want to ask for suggestions of children's magazines. Magazines tend to have appeal for all students and have many advantages for struggling readers because of their interesting and current topics, large number of graphics, short articles, and "adult" look. Also consider asking the librarian for suggestions of books of poems. There are some hilarious contemporary poets out there whose poems have mass kid appeal. And because poems, like magazine articles, are short, they are instantly gratifying and provide an immediate sense of accomplishment for all readers.

The following articles provide suggestions for ways to encourage reading, describe the benefits of reading aloud to children, and list book titles for reluctant readers:

This next set of articles provides information about choosing books, audio books, poetry, read aloud books, determining a child's reading level, and lists other recommended books:

4) Why can't my child re-read a word in a sentence that she just sounded out?

This may happen because she is concentrating so hard on the decoding (sounding out), that she is unable to remember and comprehend the full sentence. This is a good indication that the books she is reading are too challenging for her at this time.

The next time you and your child choose books, you may want to ask her teacher, a librarian, or a reading specialist to help you find "just right" books for your child. These should be books that your child is interested in and that she can read with about 95% accuracy the first time. Ask her to read a page or two aloud while you silently count the errors from the total numbers of words on the pages she reads. This will give you an estimate of her accuracy.

By reading "just right" books, your daughter will practice all aspects of reading, including fluency and comprehension. And comprehension, ultimately, is the goal of reading! As she reads "just right" books, her ability to decode words will become even more automatic. As she gains proficiency, the text will become more meaningful because she will be able to understand and enjoy what she is reading.

Check out Reading Rockets' recommended books by theme for some ideas!

5) How can I get my child with LD motivated to read more?

Any reading struggles that your child is experiencing may help explain why she chooses not to read. From a child’s perspective, it is less painful to give up than it is to try and fail. These articles may help you and your child work through some of these issues of motivation:

6) My child has a learning disability and I'm concerned that the reading program her school uses is ineffective. Can you recommend a reading program?

Although we don't review specific reading programs, the following articles outline the elements that all effective reading instruction contains. From these articles, you can see how your child’s reading program compares:

This next article also lists characteristics of effective reading programs for students with learning disabilities and includes information and worksheets to help determine the quality of a specific reading program:

Also, the American Federation of Teachers published a report in 1999 called Building on the Best, Learning from What Works: Five Promising Remedial Reading Intervention Programs.

Have a meeting with your child's teachers so that you can share your concerns with them. Any reading remediation that she receives should be individualized to her specific needs, because no pre-packaged programs are able to address every child’s areas of weakness, strengths, and the instructional methods with which they learn best. You and your child's teachers should work together to ensure that her specific needs are being met. This may require an IEP meeting to develop a new IEP with more skill-specific educational goals and objectives.

7) What can I do at home to help my second grader who struggles with reading?

The following articles will give you ideas for fun things that you can do with your child to promote literacy at home:

One of the most helpful things you can do to foster a love of reading is to read with your child, promote literacy through everyday activities, and be a good role model of a reader. These are gifts that you, as a parent, are the best equipped to provide and are ones that will stay with him throughout his life. Here are some articles to assist you:

The following article, although geared toward teaching students with LD, provides good information that can be useful to all parents:

8) What strategies and programs do you recommend for teaching phonics and early literacy skills to preschoolers?

Although we can’t recommend specific reading programs, the following article lists the characteristics that all good reading programs should have:

These next articles will give you information about early reading instruction and suggestions for helping your students develop the interest and skills to become lifelong readers:

This last article is geared toward parents but offers ideas for fun games to play with your students:

9) I am looking for ways to improve my child's comprehension and speed reading skills. How do I go about this?

If you choose to work directly with your child, the following articles are full of suggestions and ideas for increasing reading comprehension skills:

You may also want to find a local tutor to work with your child. You can contact a tutor through a local university, church, library or in the yellow pages for your community. The LD OnLine Yellow Pages might also be helpful.

Lastly, school administrators and guidance counselors can help you locate services.

10) What remedial reading methods work best for students with learning disabilities?

There are many reading programs available to help struggling readers. Reading programs should address the specific needs of each child. Effective programs target the learning areas needing attention, and also present information in a way that is the most beneficial to the child’s learning style. There is no perfect method for teaching reading, and no one method works for everyone. The following articles might be useful to you:

Reading Rockets has several articles that address reading programs and their benefits for young children:

11) Is there anything I can do at home to help my dyslexic child learn to read and spell?

Even though the English language is complex, dyslexic children CAN learn phonics! They need the support of a sequential, multisensory, structured reading program, and solid reading support at home (including reading together, playing games that isolate sounds or build words, etc.).

The Reading Rockets website focuses entirely on reading and how to help kids who struggle. See, for example, the section on strategies to help kids who struggle. Also check out this page for parents, which gives you tips on what you can do at home.

And here is a link to LD Online's collection of articles on dyslexia.

12) If my husband is dyslexic, is there a possibility that my children will be dyslexic too?

Dyslexia is a hereditary condition, so if you have a history of dyslexia in your family, it's a good idea to get information now so that you can catch early warning signs in your own children. However, children today do not have to struggle as much with their dyslexia as the generations before them. We have a greater understanding of what it means to be dyslexic and we know which educational interventions are most effective in helping these children learn to read.

The Reading Rockets website is all about reading. Here are some articles on dyslexia that will help you identify signs and find help, so that even if your children are born with dyslexia, they will grow up to be readers!

13) I'm concerned that my kindergartener is not progressing with reading and writing at the rate of her classmates. We try to sit her down to practice sight words, but she loses interest and doesn't remember them the next day. How can I help her?

The following articles will give you an idea of the types of skills that your child should be demonstrating at her age:

A disinterest in learning sight words is most likely due to the fact that she is not developmentally ready yet. You may want to hold off practicing sight words for a little while and instead focus on incorporating reading and writing into the everyday fun activities that you share, such as reading a recipe and baking together, writing a grocery list, and sending notes to each other and other family members.

Allow her to scribble letters without correction and use letter magnets and stamps. Take dictation while she tells you her ideas. In this way, she will discover the joy, power and practicality of literacy and will be inspired to learn more as she is ready, rather than getting bogged down in the mechanics of reading and writing.

Many children want their home to be a more relaxed place with less explicit instruction than a typical school setting. This doesn't mean that real learning can't take place at home, but it can be presented in a way that is playful and fun for both of you.

The following articles may give you ideas of ways that you can encourage your daughter to improve her literacy skills while taking some of the pressure off both of you:

One of the most valuable gifts you can give your daughter is to instill in her a love of reading and writing and a genuine curiosity and desire to learn. She will take this gift with her throughout her lifetime.

14) If a child is reading aloud and is maintaining meaning, is it necessary that I correct every word he misreads?

The answer to this question depends on the context in which the child is reading. If he is reading in front of a group, or for pleasure, or for the purpose of appreciating literature, then you should NOT correct every mistake. During these activities, students are developing a love of reading, and as long as the meaning is preserved, they should be free to experience the "flow" of a good story.

In an instructional context, you may want to gently correct accuracy mistakes, but try to limit this to activities in which the main instructional goal is accuracy. You can build activities into your curriculum that focus on this specific skill.

Giving students the opportunity to read without the pressure of perfect accuracy will invite children to read more – and that is how they will improve!

15) I would like to start teaching my 9-month old how to read, but he usually plays with books rather than reading them. How can I help him become a reader?

It is great that you want to help your child become a good reader! There are lots of ways to support these skills at every stage of his development.

At his age, he will probably not be holding books and noticing printed words. He is at a tactile stage, which means he will want to touch everything and explore his environment by putting objects in his mouth, throwing them, and otherwise conducting little experiments on his physical environment. This is normal and necessary for his development! (That's why board books are great for infants and toddlers.)

The way he will learn the proper way to use books is by watching you read and having early exposure to books. Keep reading with him, even if he doesn't really understand it, but don't force him to sit still or turn pages gracefully! He will begin to do this as he gets older.

16) I work with many adolescents who have poor reading abilities but I do not know much about teaching basic reading. How can I help them?

There is increasing interest in the area of adolescent literacy, especially for students whose intellectual abilities are higher than their reading level.

The first step is to identify where these students are having difficulty: decoding words? fluency? background knowledge? You can use your own assessment tools or refer them to the school administration for testing. See our online store for assessment tools.

There are several reading programs that work well for adolescents, like Orton Gillingham Reading, Wilson Reading.

You can also check out the following resources for educators. You will find many teaching strategies to use with your struggling students.

17) What are some ways to help my daughter learn the names and sounds of letters? She is tired of simply using flashcards.

There are several things you can do to help your child remain interested in learning her letters. Try using a multi-sensory approach. Your child may be a tactile learner instead of an auditory or visual learner, or she may just need a variety of sensory input to learn best. Help her to identify how each sound feels on her mouth. Use a mirror to help. For example your lips come together for /m/.

You may want to try coming up with a rhyme or song about each letter. Use alphabet magnets or alphabet cookie cutters with clay in lieu of flash cards. These activities may be more fun and engaging than flashcards and help your daughter develop her oral communication.

Use pictures. Give your child a picture (e.g. a cat) and have her sound out the name while placing marbles, drawing marks, or tapping her fingers for each of the individual sounds in the word (e.g., /c/.../a/.../t/ is composed of 3 sounds, thus the child would use 3 marbles, marks, or taps.) Stick with short words with a consonant-vowel-consonant pattern, like bat, top, pen, dad, etc. You can also clap or tap out the number of syllables in a word.

18) I found a product online that claims to cure dyslexia. Is it bogus?

Dyslexia is a neurological difference in the way language is processed by the brain. It is not a disease that can be cured or a habit that can be broken, but there are effective educational strategies that can be used to help people with dyslexia become successful readers. These strategies take time and effort. There is not a magic, quick or easy solution. Any product or program claiming to "cure" it is misleading.

For more information on dyslexia, check out the following links:

19) My second grader is having a hard time focusing on one word at a time when reading. What can I do to help her?

Beginning readers need lots of practice reading – it takes time, practice, time, and more practice! Work with your daughter's teacher to learn exactly at what level she is reading. Then, go to the library and load up on books written at that level AND below. Provide her with time each day to read, reread, and reread again those below reading level books. You'll want to build up her confidence and fluency with those books. Then, support her reading by reading WITH her the books at her instructional level. Prompt her to sound out words that can be sounded out (and just tell her the ones that can't or are too tricky). Praise her efforts and reread each book multiple times over the course of a week or two. Finally, get some terrific children's literature written ABOVE her reading level. Read those books to her to remind her WHY reading is so great. Model lots of good expression and let her hear what good, fluent reading sounds like.

Do everything you can to provide a fun climate for reading. If a book is too hard, put it away. Reinforce her efforts and continue to work closely with your school and teachers. If she continues to struggle, talk with them about additional testing and some one-on-one supervised tutoring.

20) How can I help my son develop his reading comprehension abilities?

We have a lot of information on our site about teaching comprehension skills and how parents can help at home. The following links can help you get started on helping your son develop his skills.

If you have concerns, you may wish to discuss these with his teacher. The teacher may have strategies that work in the classroom that s/he can pass on to you. Together, you can determine the best course of action for helping your son.

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