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Signs of a Reading Problem

child with reading problem

Do you suspect that your child has a reading problem? If so, you’re not alone.

Lots of parents come to us looking for answers to their children’s reading problems. My own son had struggles with reading when he was young, so not only do I have the help you need, I also understand firsthand what you’re going through.

Let’s get some answers for you!

As you read through this article, trust your instincts. If you think your child is struggling with reading, it is likely that he is. This list can help you be sure.

What Are the Signs of a Reading Problem?

A child with a reading problem may display some of the issues listed below.

  • Sounds out every word on the page, even if he has already read them. Reading-Problems-Blog-House-Vs-Horse-300x300
  • Doesn’t know the sounds of the letters.
  • Oral reading is choppy rather than fluent and smooth.
  • Reads words in the wrong order.
  • May recognize a word on one page, but not on the next page.
  • Substitutes similar-looking words, such as house for horse.
  • Guesses at words instead of sounding them out.
  • Lacks the skill to sound out unfamiliar words.
  • Ignores punctuation when reading.
  • Loses place on the page, skips lines, or rereads lines.
  • Inserts extra letters in a word when reading. For example, may read tail as trail. The misread word often has the same beginning and ending letter.
  • Makes up part of the story based on the illustrations or context clues instead of reading the actual words on the page.
  • Substitutes words with similar meanings when reading stories. For example, may read said instead of shouted.
  • Skips small words such as a, the, to, of, were, and from.
  • Displays poor reading comprehension.
  • Has a difficult time reading single words on a flashcard.
  • Resists reading. It’s a natural tendency for children to avoid what they aren’t skilled at.
Signs of a reading problem quick guide graphic

What Causes Reading Problems?

If you recognize your child in any of the signs listed above, don’t despair! Reading problems can stem from a number of different causes, and most of these can be overcome.

Kids with auditory processing disorder often have problems learning to read. Though a child with APD faces many academic challenges, you can help him learn to read. All About Reading uses an instructional approach that is exactly what a child with APD needs!

Reading-Problems-Blog-Confused-Girl-Chalkboard-300x300

Dyslexia is a common reading and spelling disability. Approximately 10% of students are affected by dyslexia. Symptoms vary from person to person. If you suspect dyslexia, download our Symptoms of Dyslexia checklist.

Vision problems can cause reading issues. Work with your pediatric ophthalmologist to rule out vision problems such as far-sightedness or convergence insufficiency disorder.

Other causes of reading problems include autism and poor working memory. Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can also cause reading problems because it is difficult for the child to stay focused on the task at hand.

Is It Possible that My Child Doesn’t Have a Reading Problem?

Signs of a Reading Problem - from All About Reading

Yes, it is! Sometimes a child is labeled with a reading problem, but the real issue is that he hasn’t been taught in the way he can learn. We can’t expect a child to read if he has gaps in his reading instruction or limited experience. While some kids seem to naturally pick up reading with very little instruction, for many kids, reading success requires direct systematic instruction such as that found in All About Reading.

Other times, too much is expected from very young children. Some children just aren’t ready to read yet, and in those cases, it’s helpful to do pre-reading activities to prepare them, such as those found in our Pre-reading program.

Learning to read takes time—and in many cases, repetition and review—before a child begins to experience success. A child might need to see a word 30 times before he can automatically recognize it by sight. If your child hasn’t met a word that many times yet, don’t be alarmed if he needs to sound it out. 

Learning to read can be hard work for kids. If your child has a low frustration tolerance, it can appear that he may have a reading problem even if he doesn’t.

How Can I Help My Child?

If your child has a reading problem, the most important thing to remember is that you CAN help him. And we can help you! The resources below are all designed to provide parents with the tools they need to teach their children to read and spell, even children with special needs.

Resources for Children with Reading Problems

All About Reading is a fun and engaging program that starts with essential pre-reading skills and continues on to teach all five key components of reading. This Orton-Gillingham program contains everything your student needs to become a fluent reader for life!

The Power of the Orton-Gillingham Approach: Discover the foundational elements of this powerful approach and how it forms the backbone of the All About Reading and All About Spelling programs.

10 Tips for Reaching Your Struggling Learner: There are very specific teaching methods that you can use to help your struggling learner succeed. One of the most important things you will want to do is to use curricula and teaching strategies that can be tailored to his needs.

How to Solve Letter Reversal Problems: Does your child sometimes confuse certain letters, like b and d or n and u? Beginning readers and dyslexic children may struggle to differentiate between letters that have similar shapes, and issues with letter reversals can have a direct impact on reading, writing, and spelling.

Learning Ally is a non-profit organization committed to helping dyslexic, blind, and visually impaired students thrive. Audiobooks help kids experience the many benefits of consuming text, but without the struggle of reading.

Testimonies from Real Moms

Failure Is Not an Option: In this video, author Marie Rippel shares with you the very personal story of how she came to develop the All About Reading and All About Spelling programs.

All About Reading and Dyslexia: Trained Orton-Gillingham instructor and mom Marianne tells her story of teaching seven children with dyslexia.

How All About Spelling Saved My Dyslexic Son: Heather began homeschooling her dyslexic son after exhausting all other options. That’s when she discovered All About Spelling. This blog post shares how her son’s learning was transformed with AAS.

Contact Us If You Need Help

If you have questions about how to help your struggling reader, please feel free to call or email us.

Does your child show signs of a reading problem?

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Linda Hill

says:

My 8 year old grandson can only write his name. I have sat down with him and so has his dad he can recognize certain words. We have both tried getting him to read a sentence but it take almost 15 minutes for us to get a 4 word sentence. He is a very smart child and very independent. It is hard to see him cry when his classmates are online working and he is getting angry and upset with himself. He does however love the area online where they read the books and show pictures. We are thinking strongly of taking him off the online schooling and homeschool him completely. Any suggestion at this time would be very helpful. Thank you. Linda or Gma as my grandson Jabe would call me.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Linda,
I am so sorry that your grandson’s struggles are causing him to be so angry and upset! It’s heartbreaking, and it doesn’t need to be. Some people just need to learn differently and it sounds like he is one of them.

Whether to continue with the school program you are using now or to homeschool is a personal decision. If you opt to continue to work with his school, you can request testing and different educational options for him. It does no good to continue to ask him to do what he cannot do.

Whether you opt to homeschool or just want to help your grandson after school, All About Reading can help. It is specially designed to take the struggle out of learning to read! Our placement tests will help determine which level he is ready to start with and our programs are easy to teach at home.

Please let me know if you have questions or need any help.

Margaret

says:

Hi i have my 8 years old boy is struggling to write and read. This is what wrote “I haf a deg,i see ae tree. Sometimes he writes b instead of d.what i don’t understand he can read his own sentences. Please help!!!!!!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m sorry your son is struggling, Margaret. You may find our 10 Tips for Reaching Your Struggling Learner blog post helpful. We also have a How to Solve Letter Reversals article that has helpful suggestions for children that confuse b and d.

If you have further questions, please let me know.

Maritza

says:

Do need to be worried if my child doesn’t hear letters beginning and end of a word

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Maritza,
Being able to hear the individual sounds in words is an important skill for both learning how to read and for learning how to spell. It is one of the phonological awareness skills. Our Fun Ways to Develop Phonological Awareness blog post can help you help your child become stronger in these skills.

Please let me know if you have further questions or need more help.

Sannie

says:

My son is 8 years and he can’t read or write I need help please

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sannie,
I’m so sorry your son is struggling with reading and writing. We have articles on our Free Resources page for more help. Our 10 Tips for Reaching Your Struggling Learner blog post may be of help as well.

Please let me know if you need more information or have specific concerns.

Nina

says:

We have been using AAR and AAS for about 4 weeks now. My daughter is 7 years old and in 2nd grade. She ticks many of these boxes.
– Oral reading is choppy rather than fluent and smooth.
– Inserts extra letters in a word when reading. For example, may read tail as trail. The misread word often has the same beginning and ending letter.
– May recognize a word on one page, but not on the next page.
– Substitutes similar-looking words, such as house for horse.
– Guesses at words instead of sounding them out.

She told me on Thursday that reading “is torture.” I think that a lot of the activities in AAR are fun. When I asked her to tell me more about this, she said it’s really hard. She has always been behind. Her birthday is in late August so she is young for her grade level. And maybe it’s just that we missed the last 2 months of school essentially due to Covid-19. An extreme case of summer slide?
I started looking into dyslexia and dysgraphia because she is very intelligent and if she can answer orally, she does great. She has a high vocabulary and loves to listen to books. I’m just not sure if she is not there developmentally or if I should pursue testing. How do I know when to test her? How long should I wait to see if she catches up developmentally?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Nina,
From what you describe, there is cause to be concerned for your daughter. However, you are correct that it is difficult to pinpoint if this is a case of forgetting much of what she knew due to limited teaching and practice over the last half a year due to COVID-19, or if there is an underlying learning disability at play. One positive is that an Orton-Gillingham based approach is what is recommended for reading and spelling for either dyslexia or dysgraphia, and you are already doing that with All About Reading and All About Spelling.

Have you seen any improvements in the last four weeks? How are things going with All About Reading and All About Spelling?

The Change-the-Word activities found periodically in the All About Reading Teacher’s Manual are very helpful to encourage students to pay attention to each sound in words. You can play this activity with the tiles far more often than scheduled, even daily.

Rereading stories two or three days in a row can go a long way toward building smooth, fluent reading. Buddy reading is a useful technique to use with each story is long and painful to get through as well.

The fluency practice pages can be re-used as well. You might enjoy our 16 Ways to Make Practice Sheets Fun. (And check out the comments as well–lots of fun suggestions in there!)

Rereading will help accomplish these goals:

– Increase word rate

– Improve prosody. Prosody is “expressive reading.” It involves phrasing (grouping words into meaningful phrases), emphasis, and intonation (raising pitch at the end of questions, lowering pitch at the end of sentences)

– Improve automaticity (be able to recognize most words automatically without having to sound them out each time)

Here’s more help with Overcoming Obstacles when Reading AAR Stories.

You can also do a variation of buddy reading called “echo reading.” You read a few sentences with full expression, and then your child reads the same sentences, matching your expression as closely as possible. Do this for approximately five minutes a day, or whatever is a comfortable length of time for your child. Add in lots of praise when your child shows even a bit of improvement.

The “Fun with Emojis” activity gives an enjoyable way to work on reading with expression too. This can be a great way to make reading fun that also sneaks in some extra practice from the fluency pages or readers. Check out Reading with Expression for this activity and others.

For word guessing, check out our Break the “Word Guessing” Habit blog post.

Finally, tThe decision to seek professional testing and diagnosis for a learning disability is a personal one, and even if you decide today to pursue testing, it can take months before you can get the testing done and then weeks after that before you get results. In the meantime, keep working with her consistently, 5 days a week, and you should see progress. If you don’t, let me know so I can help you help her!

Nina Reeder

says:

Robin,
Wow! Thank you for your thoughtful response! These are some great ideas that I can’t wait to dig into. I think I need to try more of these ideas listed here and in the appendices to make the lessons more fun. We have been completely skipping the practice sheets because she is frustrated by the time we get to that point. The last couple of stories, she doesn’t want to do the warm up sheets either. She wants to go straight into reading the story. I think the buddy reading suggestion that you linked would be a big help for her.
If she has made any progress so far, it has been very slow. All About Spelling has been going pretty well. I’ve been stretching those lessons over the course of the week and having her do fun activities to practice the words. I think I need to do the same with reading.
How long should each lesson take? I started out doing one lesson a day. Then I realized that they should probably be spread out over the course of several days. We are on Lesson 13 now.
Again, thank you so much for your thorough response. I am really blown away!
Nina

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Nina,
I’m pleased to hear my response was helpful for you.

We recommend spending just 20 minutes a day in reading instruction. Set a timer and when it goes off, place your bookmark so you know where to start the next day. Our How Much Time Should You Spend On Reading? blog post has more details about this. Most students need two to three days to complete a lesson, and those that struggle may need a week, or even longer.

From what you describe, those fluency practice sheets and warm-up sheets will be important for her for practice. However, they are too much for most students to do with everything else in a lesson. You could spend an entire day’s work (20 minutes) on a fluency practice sheet if a student is struggling.

With my youngest child, I found she was more receptive to the sheets if I spread them out over many days, setting a timer for 3 minutes (building up to 5 minutes as we move into the higher levels) and having her read from a fluency practice sheet a little bit each day. I let her choose which lines she wanted to read each day and then cross them out after she read them. For her, that was better than playing the games and such from our 16 Ways to Make Practice Sheets Fun blog post. But it took trying different things to find what made her the happiest, so you may find something else works best for your daughter.

Our 12 Great Ways to Review Reading Word Cards blog post is full of ideas on how to make reviewing the cards a game. Our How to Teach Phonograms includes printable games for reviewing phonograms. Also, we have a game supplement Reading Games with Ziggy the Zebra that is full of games for reviewing. This supplement is designed to match up with All About Reading level 1, but most of the games will work with any level and even with All About Spelling or math cards.

My daughter struggled very much with All About Reading level 1, so we played lots and lots of review games. We made Fridays review game days and she was always happy to continue to play (and review) far after the timer went off.

One thought: you didn’t mention which level of All About Reading you are working in. If it is level 1, then it may be best to put aside All About Spelling for the time being. We typically recommend waiting to begin All About Spelling until a student has finished All About Reading level 1, or the equivalent reading level. Our blog post The Right Time to Start Spelling explains this further.

I’d love to hear how things go over the next few weeks. Let me know if you have any questions or need anything else.

Paul

says:

my 6.5 year old ticks all those boxes. However the teacher said he has an above average technical ability to read (we’d been teaching him since he was 4 wereas the kids in his 6-7 year old class just started to learn last month, due to the system in the country) Yet the teacher says his comprehension is as good as his classmates , who started to learn to read last month. consequently, he was assessed at having a reading ability of the rest of the class – which is shocking since he reads the books he brings home out loud in 10 minutes , when he has a week to read them . Which is why I googled and found this. This site suggests things are even worse since he ticks every single box in that list. Its as if you have been teaching my child to read for the last 2.5 years too!

> Skips small words such as a, the, to, of, were, and from.

he skips them but more aften he will say “a” for “the” and “the” for “a”. “for” is interchangeable with “of”. “of” is also interchangeable with “to”. “from”can be read as “the”

I’m trying to work out whether my child has reading difficulties or the teachers have teaching difficulties.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Paul,
I think you will find our Help! My Child Skips Small Words When Reading blog post helpful. You may also found our 10 Solutions for Kids Who Read Too Fast post helpful as well.

It sounds like your son isn’t paying close attention to each word as he is reading. You can help him to overcome this by sitting with him when he reads aloud to you and require to read each sentence and word as written. After he reads a sentence, if he has skipped a word or misread a word, ask him if what he has read made sense. While sometimes the words skipped or misread will allow a sentence to make sense, it most often changes the meaning. This is very likely the cause of your son not comprehending well. He is misreading sentences so they either don’t make sense or the meaning has been changed. Stopping him after each misread sentence and asking him to think about what he read will help with this.

Then have him reread the sentence paying attention to each word. If he misread the sentence on the second attempt, point to the misread or skipped word and have him read only it. Then have him reread the entire sentence again. It likely won’t take him long to start paying closer attention to each word. However, continuing to have him read aloud to you for 10 minutes or so daily is important to ensure he doesn’t revert to the habit of skipping or misreading words.

I’d love to hear how things go over the next few weeks. Let me know if you have further questions or need more ideas.

Paul

says:

Thanks. BTW I do think teachers know what they are doing!!!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Paul.

nidhi jain

says:

my kid has a learning disabilities she is 13 year old

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Nidhi,
You may find our 10 Tips for Reaching Your Struggling Learner helpful.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Carol

says:

Thank you for this information. Very helpful. At what age should a child start All About Spelling? How early can they start?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Carol,
I think you will find our The Right Time to Start Spelling blog post helpful. It details on the considerations on when to start All About Spelling. But, in short, after a student has finished All About Reading level 1, or the equivalent reading level, is when to start.

Laura

says:

I suspect my daughter has APD and maybe dyslexia as well. I’m thankful for AAR, she has slowly been making progress!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

This is wonderful to hear, Laura! I know from personal experience that it can be frustrating and disheartening when progress is slow, but keep up the great work. Success in reading will come!

Laura D

says:

Thanks for helpful information.

Sarah

says:

I have a child in my class who often starts sounding words out with the letter in the middle or end of the word rather than the first and after prompting to revisit that word seems to get further away from that word. There seems to be very little information online about this particular issue. What advice do you have on overcoming this issue other getting the eyesight checked out by an optician?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sarah,
Left to right reading seems obvious to us as adults, but it really is completely arbitrary. Not every language does it. Also, before learning letters, directionality doesn’t matter much to children. A chair is a chair no matter what way it is facing or even if it is upside down. But with letters and reading, directionality is essential.

Our blending procedure for sounding out words is helpful for this. It adds hands-on tactile learning to it and the physicality of it helps cement the idea of starting at the left. Our blog post Helping Kids Sound Out Words describes our blending procedure in detail.

Even without the letter tiles, however, add in some touching to help. When this child doesn’t start at the left letter, ask him or her to touch the first letter and then implement the step-by-step blending. That touching is remarkably helpful and I use it whenever I need a student to pay closer attention to a word. For example, when they misread the vowel sound I have them touch the vowel and then reread the word. It is much more successful than just having them reread the word without touching first.

If this is a new problem, or if the child is just beginning to read, he or she may overcome this problem in a relatively short period with such gentle corrections and tactile reinforcement. However, if this is a problem that child has had for a while, it will take longer for him or her to master proper directionality. Established habits just take longer to break than new ones.

I hope this helps, but please let me know if you need more ideas. I’d love to hear how it goes over the next week or two!

Sarah

says:

That’s great. Thank you.

Sarah

says:

That’s great, thank you. I will certainly try this out and let you know. Does the problem have a specific name? Could it be a sign of a bigger problem that I also need to be looking out for?

Many thanks

Sarah

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sarah,
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you on this.

This problem with directionality is one, of many, symptoms of dyslexia. However, if the child is brand new to reading, it might be just being new to learning left to right direction of English. At this point, I’d be inclined to see if he or she masters directionality with some help as described above or if further symptoms present themselves. You may find our Symptoms of Dyslexia Checklist and other Dyslexia Resources helpful.

Amy

says:

Thanks to some of the free resources you provide (e.g. Get Out of the Wagon game), and this blog post, we now know we are looking at a definite learning difficulty and are working through assessments for APD and Dyslexia. My brother and I were early and avid readers (and still are), so I really didn’t know how to help my smart and feisty daughter until I started reading blog posts by other parents directing me to look at All About Reading’s advice – so thank you for this post!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are so welcome, Amy, and I’m very glad that this was helpful for you! If you have any questions or need more information, just ask.

Jane Swaibu

says:

I really need help with my 8year old boy on concentration while doing his school work he can easily get carried away with a small thing(play with his rubber when he’s supposed to be writing), he also struggles with pronouncing of lots of words, following instructions is not easy for him as well.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m sorry your boy is having such difficulties, Jane.

One thing that affects the ability to focus for a lot of children is how much, or how little, physical activity they are getting. Often when children have had a chance to play hard and be very active for a while, they will find concentration and focus much easier.

Another is to keep lesson times short and to the point. We recommend spending just 20 minutes a day on reading instruction for that reason.

You may find 10 Tips for Reaching Your Struggling Learner blog post help too. Please let me know if you need anything else.

maata wharehoka

says:

my child is 12 and has difficulty reading fluently. needs to read a couple of times to understand. there are many moments
of non-comprehension. difficulty in listening to more than 2 instructions. is easily distracted. has the best social functioning level with 7-8 year olds

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Maata,
I’m sorry your child is struggling in all these ways. Have you spoken with his or her teacher about your concerns and how your child can be helped? You may find our 10 Tips for Reaching Your Struggling Learner blog post helpful. Please let me know if you have specific questions.

Karissa Coble

says:

Oh every issue you said is exactly what my daughter is dealing with. I suspect APD. Thank you for these tips and I look forward to seeing how AAS can help her!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Karissa. And if you ever have questions or need additional help to help your daughter, please let us know!

Marie Morgan

says:

Interested to find some helpful hints for the tuition of Grade Prep to Grade 3 ESL students in my care..
Thankyou
Marie

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Marie. Please let us know if you have questions or are looking for anything specific.

Deborah Cariker

says:

We adopted our son, now 13, and had no idea the challenges he — and we — would face. His pediatrician was exactly correct: we’d know more when he got to school age. Bless her, Lord. Being homeschoolers — now 24 years — we thought we could just adapt and cover his needs. We have — but it’s been a lonely trek with monumental efforts through a bizarre forest of dyslexia, Irlen Syndrome, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, auditory processing issues, autism, — you get the picture. His list of diagnoses looks like someone barfed up a can of alphabet soup. I’m tickled to find so many resources in this blog — resources I can explore as we trek deeper into this dark and lonely forest, knowing that the Father has a good plan for our son, regardless of what the forest looks like, no matter how tall the trees, and aside from the inherent clutter of stumps and undergrowth. We will get through the miasma of diagnoses, and we will help our son to be as whole as we can. I know the Father will do what only He can do as we do what He expects us to do.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Deborah,
It’s such a blessing to know our website and resources are helpful for you and your son. If you ever have questions or need help with anything, please just let us know.

Jamie

says:

Good advice.

Luc

says:

Great article and tips!

Kristin Rickerson

says:

This is great information. I love that you can click areas of concern and get more info on them.

Tin

says:

Very informative. We are still observing at this point.

Priscilla

says:

Wonderful information! I really want to help my child!

Toni Drummond

says:

This was great information!

Melissa

says:

Teaching kids how to read can seem intimidating but your materials look great!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Melissa!

Sandy

says:

good advice. I hope this program can help my students.

Hannah Shefferd

says:

This was very helpful and encouraging for what I am dealing with in my 8 year old.

Sark

says:

Great advice

Ginette

says:

Thank you. This helps me with my 8 year old reluctant reader.

Ginette

says:

Thank you. That helps me see where I need to go next for my 8 year old reluctant reader.

Brittany Callis

says:

Very helpful information! Thank you!

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