Ways to Help Struggling Readers

Ways to Help Struggling Readers

Tired of Googling, “How can I help my struggling reader at home?” Don’t worry, we have got you covered!


Over 10 million children around the world have difficulties learning to read. The number is huge, but that doesn’t mean that struggling readers can’t overcome their difficulties. Around 90% to 95% of children struggling with reading can overcome their difficulties if they receive the right guidance early.


The first thing you need to know is that helping your child overcome reading difficulties is possible. However, expecting it to happen overnight is the problem.


Before discussing how to help a struggling reader, let’s discuss the common reading difficulties children face.

help struggling readers

Common Reading Difficulties Children Face

The learning difficulties that impact fluency in reading include dysgraphia, dyscalculia, and various more. However, the most common one is dyslexia. According to Dr Sally Shaywitz, co-director of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, 80% to 90% of children with learning difficulties have Dyslexia.


Kids with dyslexia struggle with decoding the letters in the text and turn them into spoken language.


By not being able to decode words, they are not able to understand what the text means. A great way of helping children with Dyslexia become readers is to introduce them to decodable books.


Decodable books are texts that are controlled for specific phonics. The purpose of decodable books is to practice phonic knowledge and skills they have learned with a control text.


From strengthening orthographic memory to building confidence and reinforcing children’s knowledge of phonics, decodable books offer various benefits and allow children with reading difficulties to take a big step towards independent reading.

Pre-Literacy Skills Parents Should Encourage


Decoding is the ability to recognize letters and words and reading them aloud. A few effective strategies to teaching children decode words are building a foundation for phonological awareness, teaching syllable types, and attaching images to sight words.


A wide vocabulary is fundamentally important for children because it improves all areas of communication (listening, speaking, reading). By helping to improve your child’s vocabulary, you will be ensuring that they understand what they are reading.

There are a lot of fun ways of improving your child’s vocabulary, a few of them are:

  • Reading books to them
  • Encouraging storytelling
  • Having two-way conversations with your child

How to Help a Struggling Reader – Tips and Suggestions

how to help a struggling reader

Try Building Up Their Foundation Skills

Pre-reading skills influence student motivation and help children decode words independently. The five pre-reading skills that children have to master before learning to read are:

  • Motivation to read
  • Listening comprehension
  • Letter knowledge
  • Print awareness
  • Phonological awareness

Notice Your Child’s Strength

Every child has different strengths and abilities. Some draw beautifully, while others are great at putting puzzles together. Make sure to focus on those strengths and tell them that you see them excelling at many things. They shouldn’t feel like they are of no good because they have difficulty learning how to read. You have to make sure that your child understands that people have different strengths and weaknesses. To do so, share your own difficulties with them.

Build Their Confidence

If you want your child to overcome reading difficulties, make sure you appreciate them by pointing out the things they did well. Trying to praise them more than criticizing encourages them to do better. Many people don’t realize that struggling children understand they are having difficulties, especially the older ones. Rather them reminding them of their failures, why not celebrate every success with a high five?

Engage in Multisensory Activities

If you want to help your first-grade struggling reader, make sure you follow multisensory reading strategies. Multisensory activities are a great way of teaching children how to read. It’s a way of teaching that involves more than one sense at a time.

A few multisensory activities for kindergarten students are:

  • Drawing alphabets and numbers using tactile materials
  • Using blending boards for segmenting sounds

Final Words

Millions of children around the world deal with reading difficulties. The key to helping struggling readers is to take baby steps and appreciate every little success. It’s important to let your little ones know that they are special and possess different strengths and weaknesses like everyone else.  Phonics reading programs can also help build a foundation to help a child learn to read. A few more ways of helping struggling readers at home are to offer developmentally appropriate reading through audiobooks, having them practice reciprocal teaching, and encouraging them to read a lot. Audiobooks are a great way of helping children with Dyslexia become readers as well. 

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Benefits of Using Sight Words

Benefits of Using Sight Words

Benefits of Using Sight Words

With all the diverse approaches at our disposal today, it can be challenging to opt for tactics and activities that are best designed to help kids become confident, fluent readers. To compound the situation, children, parents, and instructors are all heavily overworked! As an adult immersed in the hustle and bustle of life, you may be continuously faced with the task of deciding ways to spend quality time with your children. A productive way to utilize the time you spend with your children is by giving them sight words education.


We’ve combed through some of the many advantages of helping your children focus on sight words. Let’s walk through them together:

Sight Words Help Build Confidence in Young Readers

When it comes to learning a skill, the importance of self-efficacy (an individual’s belief in his ability to achieve a goal) cannot be overstated. Children are considerably more inclined to learn something new if they believe they can do it. Thus, enhancing their confidence is key.


Given that sight words make up an incredible percentage of words used in children’s textbooks (around 50% - 75%) knowing the list of containing high-frequency words gives children a massive advantage as they attempt to read new stories. As soon as a young reader realizes that they can easily identify over half of the words on a page, it’ll boost their confidence to read further

Children Don’t Have to Put in Too Much Effort into Understanding More Difficult Words

Once children know sight words, they only need to slow down their reading to focus on decoding new, challenging words.


Contrary to what some people may believe, reading is a difficult job! We, as fluent readers, often underestimate how much concentration and energy it takes to read when one doesn’t recognize majority of the words written on the page in front of them. When young students are required to decipher each word in a sentence, they feel frustrated and lose track of the meaning of the text. They become so engrossed in "sounding out" the words that they deviate from understanding the content of the text itself.


Once children are taught the art of mastering sight words, they just need to slow down their reading in order to concentrate on decoding new and more complex words.

Sight Words Provide Clues

We frequently encounter sight words in our reading and writing.  Many times, these words do not have an accompanying image.


Memorizing sight words has now been scientifically proven to induce confusion in young readers since they get to reading things “in context”. For example, in the absence of visual clues, imagine that there are slight misspellings in a common word used in a paragraph – say “whose”, “who’s” and “whoosh”. If the correct usage is the first one, children will often autocorrect in the other two cases and read as if “whose” had been repeated thrice.


The problem with memorizing sight words, without any basis for phonetic patterns, is that many sight words become irregular – something that taxes the mind unduly without some other association.


The science of reading teaching decodables is markedly different. Students will be taught to recognize graphemes – which are phonemes blended together – to not just read and memorize letters and then guess.


It is estimated that there are only 44 most common combinations of letters and sounds – including the basic letters and vowel sounds, along with combinations such as “-ing”, “th” and “sh”. If a young reader learns these, s/he is ready to build a memory bank of sound and letter combinations. This is far easier than dealing with the ~15,000 English syllables.


There are two approaches using phonics, each considered to be better than memorizing sight words: (a) synthetic phonics, where the reader learns the sound of each letter, then combines them to form the word, and (b) analytic phonics – where the child is taught how to spot graphemes within words and use that knowledge to pronounce other words.


An example might be to know the word “bark” and then read “lark”. With synthetic phonics, you would treat each letter separately, so you review the “l”, the “a” etc. With analytic phonics, you recognize the “_ark” sound pattern and add the “l” to it.

Sight Words Provide Clues

Even though many sight words have less than five letters, they facilitate young readers comprehend a text. They provide the key to the context of a phrase or sentence.


While illustrations and visuals are used in multiple children's textbooks, we ultimately want our kids to be able to determine the meaning of a text-primarily by reading the words. Sight words provide crucial clues to the overall meaning of a sentence, which helps children understand what they're reading.


Let’s take the example of a few verbs: run, jump and sit. The sentence “he loves to run in the playground” will change contextually when one of the other two verbs (jump and sit) are substituted. Similarly, understanding the meaning of pronouns such as he, she, you and I, is critical to make sense of the sentences they are used in.

Sight Word Instruction Builds a Foundation for Reading New and More Complex Words

Sight word education has far-reaching benefits that extend beyond the realm of simply helping kids read. Not only will these children come across the same words in advanced books, but the entire process of learning sight words will polish their overall vocabulary skills. It may very well result in them becoming avid readers over time and develop crucial learning techniques they can employ in future endeavors.


Children, upon learning sight words, connect their existing understanding of the word (meaning and pronunciation) with its spelling. Their ability to merge the two is aided by their understanding of the alphabet. The letters and their sounds form a mnemonic that assists children retain the specific word in their memory.


According to researchers, when kids go through extensive lists of sight words enough times, it’s bound to improve their vocabulary as the technique becomes embedded in their repertoire of reading skills. They will then use this strategy intuitively to incorporate other complicated sight words into their knowledge bank.

Sight Words Augment Esl Instruction

As more and more ESL students join classrooms and communities today, it is incumbent upon instructors to discover strategies to reach them. A core objective of ESL instruction is teaching functional English language skills to students.


There is an array of benefits for ESL learners who are taught sight words. Given that most of these words frequently appear in children's stories and come up in daily interactions, focusing ESL training on sight word education isn’t just effective- it’s the need of the hour.

Wrapping It Up

Needless to say, learning to read is a tricky business. A variety of strategies along with a specific skillset are required to create strong readers. The aforementioned benefits should motivate you to teach children sight words as this is one of the initial steps that’s tried and tested for inculcating adequate reading skills within young readers.


If you believe in the merits of homeschooling, start off by teaching sight words to children and adopting effective techniques used by professional educators. Make some flash cards at home or print out a list of words with the help of Internet and you’re all set to teach your kid sight words in no time. Best of luck!

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How are Decodables different from Leveled Reading

How are Decodables different from Leveled Reading


An article published in The Elementary School Journal (2014) by Murray et al examined the impact of the first 10 levels of 1st Grade versions of these two types of readers (books). Table 1 below summarizes how the decodable and the leveled readers varied in terms of content, on the average. When teaching reading to beginning and developing students, and also those who have some difficulties in learning to read, these decodables and leveled reading texts are used:


  • Decodable texts break down the “code” of words by concentrating on a large number of phonetically similar words, and groups of words whose “phonemes” (the smallest unit of language, representing a short speech sound) occur most frequently. The readers then become familiar with “graphemes” (syllables or sounds). These words are sounded out repeatedly while reading to help the student develop familiarity and knowledge.


  • Leveled readers, on the other hand, are asked to focus on the “meaning” of words. They are replete with words that occur with higher frequency in written language and also focus on patterns that are commonly used as part of the syntax.


There have been many studies on how to make reading learning more effective, especially in the past 35-40 years. We present results from a well-known publication below.

Analysis by Murray, Munger and Herbert

An article published in The Elementary School Journal (2014) by Murray et al examined the impact of the first 10 levels of 1st Grade versions of these two types of readers (books). Table 1 below summarizes how the decodable and the leveled readers varied in terms of content, on the average.

Table 1: Comparing Characteristics of Leveled vs. Decodable Readers

Category Type Decodable Reader (%) Leveled Reader (%)
Word Decodability (percent of phonetically regular words) Much higher (62%) Lower (42%)
High-Frequency Slightly lower (59%) Higher (66%)
Concreteness Similar (~25%) Similar (~25%)
Multisyllabic Approximately half (11%) Double (23%)
Text Pattern Words used once Similar (~41%) Similar (~45%)
Repeated Words Slightly lower Slightly higher
Program Level Match between phonic lessons and reader text – 1st phase 28% 4%
2nd Phase 68% 31%
Upper Limit 76% 50%

Why is it Beneficial to Shift from Leveled Reading to Decodables?

The 2014 study concluded that the best readers contain a majority of words that the student can decode using his or her current phonic knowledge, within the context of the chosen teaching curriculum. One can then introduce high-frequency words – which are not necessarily decodable at the student’s current phonetic knowledge – to build on the confidence and fluency they have gained from their decodable training.


Table 2 below discusses some of the key advantages and drawbacks for each type of reader based on the 2014 study and other detailed scientific research.

Table 2: Leveled vs. Decodable Readers Advantages/Drawbacks

Category Decodable vs. Leveled: Who Has the Edge?
Development of “site word” vocabulary The two types of readers are even, since both have lots of high frequency words. However, both types of readers have more words that occur only once, which may cause a small drawback. But once again, the drawback is equal.
Learning rather than guessing Decodable readers have a clear advantage, since they feature a high percentage of decodable words and few multisyllable words – so young readers are more likely to be developing their phonic knowledge rather than guessing. Leveled readers are exactly the reverse and encourage a reliance on guessing and picture cues.
Increased knowledge application and systematic progression Decodable readers are phenomenal at this. Unlike the guesswork of leveled readers where children are struggling with unknown words at every level, decodable readers are building on a base of phonetic knowledge and expanding step by step. This systematic progression is key to the youngsters’ confidence and eventual graduation into becoming independent readers.
Orthographic memory (aka, information stored in memory that allows us to represent spoken language in written form and recognize text) By its very definition, decodable readers are key to creating long term memories in young readers that make it possible for them to spot familiar site words in texts without picture cues.


As the 2014 study showed, and the table above reinforces, decodable readers have a few drawbacks – which they mostly share with leveled readers. But they have significant advantages in most areas that concern how young readers can learn in a systematic fashion to become independent readers. Explore the best decodable reading programs, books and other learning resources available at Reading Teacher for better learning.


We recommend other Reading Resources from our growing library:

Decodable Books: Do they actually work?

Using Decodable Books in Kindergarten & First Grade 

Ways to Help Struggling Readers 

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How to Choose the Best Decodable Readers for Your Students

How to Choose the Best Decodable Readers for Your Students

In a classroom of varied reading levels, decodable readers are the smartest choice any educator can make. Yet in light of the “literacy crisis” recently coined by the New York Times, it can be difficult to decide when - and how - to introduce decodables to young readers. This crisis did not start with the pandemic, with experts pointing to a long-term shortage of teachers trained in phonics and phonemic awareness. Noting these early literacy foundations, we list the qualities of the best decodable readers that reinforce the science of reading - and the value of students seeing themselves in their own reading material.


  1. Decodable readers reinforce the science of reading.

Decoding is an essential skill for early reading comprehension. In a classroom guided by the science of reading, decodable readers increase exposure to the pillars of decoding: phonics (letter-sound combinations), the blending of words and sounds, and those irregular words known as tricky words! Written in a systematic and structured fashion, decodable books empower students to practice the skills taught during explicit phonics instruction. While this instructional lingo may not sound as exciting, these flagships of early literacy instruction are crucial for reading teachers to understand. By implementing decodables early and regularly in a classroom, students have a better chance of reaching automaticity: the point at which a child learns to decode, increasing access to reading material guided by their personal interests as opposed to reading challenge areas.


  1. Decodables can - and should - reflect a range of identities and cultures.

For students to become lifelong readers, they must first learn to decode and comprehend what they’re reading. From there, the joy of reading is found in reading material that reflects their curiosities, identities, and the world around them. The Read in Color program is committed to this belief, considering that less than 25% of children’s books depict non-white characters. In addition to instilling foundational phonics skills, instructors and parents also have an opportunity to expose students to diverse narratives with the thoughtful introduction of decodable readers and other guided reading level texts.


  1. Decodables are FUN!

At Reading Teacher, we understand the relationship between learning to read and fun. While learning to decode texts takes time, patience, and dedication, it also represents an opportunity for educators and parents to connect with their students - and foster more opportunities for relationship-building and play in the classroom and beyond. When introducing decodable readers into a child’s daily reading routine, consider taking a trip to the local library, where librarians work tirelessly as literacy first-responders and provide equitable solutions to long-standing reading gaps. Emphasize engaging content - don’t shy away from silliness! - and when age-appropriate, implement writing lessons to make the texts more interesting while encouraging students to add their own creative twists.


Decodable readers are crucial tools in an early literacy classroom. With these tips and the support of our science-backed program, your students will soar from elementary decoders to dedicated readers.



  • Decodable readers are essential in a growing toolkit to help reading teachers combat the effects of COVID-19- induced reading loss.
  • The best decodable readers reinforce skills learned during explicit phonics instruction, explore diverse stories and identities, and contain engaging content that encourages creative lessons in the classroom - and ultimately, a lifelong love for reading.

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Science of Reading in Action: 3 Impacts of Early Literacy Funding in a CA Elementary School

Science of Reading in Action: 3 Impacts of Early Literacy Funding in a CA Elementary School

National reading assessments continue to show the toll of COVID-19 learning loss, with some suggesting almost 4 months of reading learning loss as of July 2021. At Nystrom Elementary, a Bay Area School in CA, new funding from the Early Literacy Support Block Grant is working to remedy these losses, with a focus on preexisting opportunity and achievement gaps among historically disadvantaged students. Today, we explore 3 positive impacts of early literacy funding at Nystrom Elementary, which serves as a model for other schools.

science of reading

  1. Bridges the achievement gap for historically marginalized groups of students

At Nystrom, many students are learning to read and learning English at the same time. Others struggle with learning disabilities or poverty, further limiting opportunities for reading success. For these students, explicit phonics instruction - and enough phonics instruction, at least 30 minutes a day - is crucial to a strong reading foundation. To meet all of their students’ needs, Nystrom has introduced EL Education and the Systematic Instruction in Phonological Awareness, Phonics, and Sight Words program (SIPPS), both of which are phonics-heavy and grounded in the science of reading. Increasingly, schools are recognizing that learning to read is not natural like learning to talk or walk: a reality that is especially resonant for English language learners, students of color, and all other students who face barriers to literacy.


Nystrom's newest reading material is designed to reflect the cultural makeup of California students, acknowledging the prior lack of culturally reflective reading material. In any school district, literacy funds can be used to introduce age-appropriate books that address diversity, equity, and inclusion themes, helping students make real-life connections and grow cultural appreciation.


  1. Encourages more intentional use of reading assessments.

To measure the success of its literacy curricula changes, Nystrom tested its students at the beginning and middle of the year using the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS), which predicts whether students’ reading skills will develop on track during the year or if they need additional support. While Nystrom’s fall assessment showed that 61% of all students did not have grade-specific reading skills, there was significant improvement among first and fourth graders based on the mid-year assessment. Across all grades, oral fluency rose sharply, meaning that students could better comprehend and read texts out loud. The use of DIBELS to measure incremental success of a new reading curriculum - better yet, one based on the science of reading - shows that when reading assessments are used strategically, their data can offer encouragement and guidance for both educators and students.


  1. Paves the pathway to personal and professional fulfillment.

Nystrom’s use of its early literacy funding ultimately reflects its belief in - and commitment to - its students. Nystrom teachers are united by a belief that all of their kids can read: they just need a reading curriculum that honors their needs and incorporates the science of reading, combined with appropriate testing to identify challenges. Since switching from Units of Study for Teaching Reading English/Language Arts to the phonics-heavy curricula, more Nystrom students expected to end the year on track, increasing their confidence, likelihood of educational and professional success, and overall well-being.


While adopting a science-based reading curriculum seems like an obvious choice, it’s also an expensive one. Textbook changes can cost more than $1 million, pushing the already strained budgets of many school districts. In light of these expenses, the small yet promising changes at Nystrom illustrate that by devoting proper time, attention, and funds to early literacy, the long-term benefits for students are likely to justify the upfront investment.

learning child


  • New funding for early literacy programs in the West Contra Costa Unified school district in CA prompted a reading curriculum overhaul at Nystrom Elementary, driven by the science of reading and the unique needs of its student population.
  • Students’ mid-year DIBELS scores show significant improvements in students’ grade-level reading skills, oral fluency, and phonemic awareness.
  • These small-yet-significant changes show the need for more early literacy funding to bridge reading gaps between historically disadvantaged students, encourage more strategic reading assessments, and ultimately give children the confidence to succeed as students and adults.

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In Illinois, Educators and Students Fight for the Right to Read

In Illinois, Educators and Students Fight for the Right to Read

It’s not magic - it’s science.


This is what Kait Feriante, the founder of Redwood Literacy, a Chicago-based literacy tutoring program for teens, had to say about structured literacy instruction. Redwood Literacy has become a lifeline to teens who have experienced poverty, tragedy, systemic neglect, and other circumstances that limited their access to high-quality reading instruction from an early age. Feriante and her team employ the Wilson Reading System, which emphasizes phonics, high-frequency words, and the importance of reading sentences aloud. While the program’s literacy intervention specialists hold their students accountable to meet reading milestones, they are also playful and gracious, addressing students with a firm warmth during their twice-a-week, 90-minute reading sessions.

Right to Read for students

In Illinois, Redwood is a rarity: Illinois school districts have been slow to adopt reading curricula based on the science of reading. The now debunked philosophy of balanced literacy assumes that reading skills develop naturally, dismissing the value of decoding and other foundational skills; yet some Illinois schools still use the approach, haphazardly mixing phonics with whole-language instruction. Illinois has yet to utilize federal COVID relief funds to expand and improve early literacy programs, lagging behind the District of Columbia and 18 U.S. states that are mobilizing these funds to improve early literacy programs and teacher training.

Right to Read

Historically, Illinois’ largest school district, Chicago Public Schools (CPS), left schools and even individual teachers to devise their own reading curricula. While the district debuted a new literacy curriculum called Skyline in the summer of 2021, only 30% of CPS schools adopted its English Language Arts portion, which contains elements of structured literacy. Grassroots changes to reading curricula may be more impactful: early in the pandemic, teachers at a local elementary school in Plano, IL began researching structured literacy and lobbied for a new literacy program grounded in the science of reading. One of those teachers, Pam Reilly, is one of a growing assembly of voices who assert that “‘when we know better, we do better’”: a belief that underpins the state’s latest Right to Read bill. The bill calls for 3 key actions by the state school board:


  1. Create a list of evidence-based reading programs and increase access to support, training, and grants for school districts that want them
  2. Require an evidence-based reading instruction assessment for teachers seeking licensure in early grades
  3. Create a statewide online training module for preschool and elementary teachers, including those who work with students with disabilities, to enhance knowledge of the science of reading


Both the House and Senate versions of the bill easily passed committees and are primed for debate on their respective floors this session. While Right to Read is widely supported, opponents worry that the new legislation minimizes the needs of English language learners. This remains a valid concern for Redwood and any literacy program or school working to adopt comprehensive and culturally responsive reading instruction.


While no reading intervention program is perfect, the guarantee of small group instruction, transportation assistance, small weekly stipends, and $1000 by the end of Redwood’s program represents one small - but significant - attempt to empower young people with the tools to read and receive help from empathetic adults. Their newfound literacy skills carry into adulthood, improving their prospects for employment, higher education, and overall confidence. Redwood illuminates the intersection of reading science and social justice: a reality that Illinois and other states must honor. By acknowledging all students’ right to read and the scientific basis of reading itself, it is implied that all students have the potential to learn - and thrive - as adults, parents, and future educators themselves.

Educators and Students Fight for the Right to Read


  • Redwood Literacy is a literacy intervention program in Illinois: it relies on the science of reading to support students who have not had consistent access to high-quality literacy education.
  • Statewide, Illinois has struggled to adopt reading curricula and intervention strategies grounded in the science of reading.
  • Grassroots efforts and district-wide concerns regarding students’ reading abilities supported the initial drafting of the Right to Read bill, which reflects the goals of Redwood Literacy’s programming.

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In 2022, Is Third Grade Still the Make-or-Break Year for Reading?

In 2022, Is Third Grade Still the Make-or-Break Year for Reading?

In celebration of National Reading Month, educators and parents across the U.S. are reading daily with their students. With each book, they’re discussing new sounds, unfamiliar words, and world-expanding narratives. Of course, we know that the work of learning to read extends far beyond the month of March: especially in 2022, it takes a lot to catch students up to the literacy milestones they’re expected to meet by the end of third grade. Today, we explore how third grade reading levels shape students’ long-term reading success when accounting for the effects of the pandemic, students’ individual circumstances, and educational inequities.

read properly

Research on the science of reading has shown that third graders who cannot read at grade level are most vulnerable to dropping out of school. Because today’s third graders experienced months of virtual literacy education, it is difficult - and perhaps even inaccurate - to apply this research to the early readers of 2022. Nevertheless, third grade is still widely recognized as the final year children are learning to read, after which they are “reading to learn.” The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), also known as the U.S. report card, uses third grade reading scores to assess students’ reading performance: if third graders score well on the NAEP and related assessments, research indicates they have a better chance to go to college and reap greater lifetime earnings. Conversely, data suggests that early literacy gaps are even wider among low-income students, students of color, and students with disabilities and other reading challenges such as dyslexia.

While this make-or-break year has undoubtedly been affected by the pandemic, new legislation in various states recognizes the importance of third grade despite COVID-19 setbacks. Take Grand Island, Nebraska, where third graders are celebrating National Reading Month: like many other U.S. school districts, most Grand Island elementary teachers did not learn about the science of reading in their teacher training programs. In response, the school district implemented district-wide training in the science of reading, driven by the belief that “literacy is liberation.” As of this month, around ⅔ of the district’s elementary teachers have completed additional training on early literacy; moreover, under the Nebraska Reading Improvement Law, all Nebraska schools are required to provide instruction grounded in the science of reading to support early literacy. By screening early for reading barriers and collaborating with parents, the Grand Island district is committed to nurturing strong and confident readers by the culmination of third grade.


The Read Across America program honors the same commitment. Throughout National Reading Month and beyond, the program seeks to uplift students and authors of color, individuals with disabilities, and others whose voices have not always been heard - let alone, read. In addition to receiving science-backed literacy education, it is vital for students to see themselves in the stories they read and to experience the connection between reading success and “real-life” achievement. In a recent panel hosted by the Wheelock College of Education and Human Development, program director Hank Fien stated that educational disparities “have mirrored disparities in wealth, employment and virtually every positive indicator of health and well being.” A third grader’s reading scores do not just inform their fourth grade year: these scores shape how students are viewed by teachers and how students view themselves, reinforcing the importance of early literacy instruction that acknowledges the science of reading and language as a civil right.

make or break year for reading


  • Historically, third grade reading scores have been a valuable metric to assess students’ long-term wellbeing and prospects for higher education and employment.
  • In response to COVID-19, and in recognition of systemic barriers that disproportionately affect disadvantaged students, some U.S. school districts are arming teachers with early literacy training in the science of reading.
  • Third grade reading scores continue to inform the development of new legislation and curricula to support today’s youngest readers.

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For Readers with Dyslexia, Structured Literacy is Essential

For Readers with Dyslexia, Structured Literacy is Essential

Dyslexia, a learning disorder that is neurobiological in origin, is characterized by difficulties with spelling, word recognition, and decoding in reading. Students with dyslexia typically struggle when attempting to learn the phonological component of language and may also experience problems with reading comprehension and an overall aversion to reading that impedes their vocabulary growth. The condition is so pervasive that the month of October is officially recognized as Dyslexia Awareness Month. This past October, a variety of educators, parents, students, and legislators raised awareness by researching and discussing how classrooms can better support students with dyslexia and other language-based reading disorders.

Structured Literacy

In recognition of Dyslexia Awareness Month, Symone Walker, a federal attorney, public school parent, and Vice President of the Arlington Special Education Advisory Committee (ASEAC) in Arlington, VA, recently wrote on the necessity of structured literacy for students with dyslexia. Walker specifically recommends the Orton-Gillingham (O-G) structured literacy approach: a direct, explicit, multisensory, structured, sequential, diagnostic, and prescriptive way to teach literacy to students who struggle with reading, writing, and spelling. Structured literacy is generally viewed as superior to balanced literacy, which encourages students to use word analogies, pictures, and/or contextual clues to identify words. Balanced literacy has been associated with reading score declines in the Arlington Public School system; moreover, the Lucy Calkins Units of Study, a widely used balanced literacy curriculum, has received an Ed Reports failing review for not meeting expectations for text quality and complexity in grades K-8.

Why Structured Literacy for Dyslexia

For readers of all abilities in grades K-8, O-G and other structured literacy approaches are shown to benefit students and school districts’ long-term education goals. To demonstrate, Walker provides a case study of the Marysville Exempted Village School District (MEVSD) in Ohio, which recently shifted its literacy program to a diagnostic approach that provides equitable access to structured literacy for all students. After assessing the social-emotional wellness of all students - and not just their reading abilities - MEVSD shifted to a diagnostic approach with evidence-based practices in the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of language-based reading disorders. The district financed the shift with a 25-year cost savings of $18,954,434. The continued success of students in this district illustrates the synchrony of social-emotional wellness and reading success, as well as the long-term sustainability of investing in young readers.

Structured Literacy

To enhance structured literacy approaches for readers with dyslexia, parents and educators may also consider assistive reading technology, as overviewed in our previous newsletter. Tools such as the Voice Dream Reader app, Learning Ally, Bookshare, and Co:Writer - all of which are either free or can be purchased by a student’s school - can help early readers learn the basics of literacy while fostering a long-term appreciation for reading and writing. It is essential that educators and school districts at large recognize, measure, and respond to the diverse needs of all of their students, especially those with dyslexia. Reading can and should be accessible and enjoyable to readers of all abilities - and their access to phonics-based, structured literacy education, informed instructors, and assistive reading technology should reflect this belief.


  • Students with dyslexia typically struggle with learning the phonological component of language, leading to issues with spelling, decoding, and word recognition. However, these students are just as capable as their peers and can become strong readers with structured literacy education and effective instructors.
  • Symone Walker, Vice President of the Arlington Special Education Advisory Committee (ASEAC) in Arlington, VA, recently argued in favor of structured literacy for students in all public school districts. Walker views structured literacy as essential for students with dyslexia and other language-based reading disorders, who require – and deserve – a more explicit, diagnostic, and multisensory method of reading instruction.
  • Other school districts may look to the work of Marysville Exempted Village School District (MEVSD) in Ohio for a roadmap on educating students with reading disorders.
  • To augment structured literacy education, educators and parents may find additional support from assistive reading technology designed for readers with dyslexia.

Learn More about Reading Teacher:

Reading Teacher access includes 100 animated, interactive stories across 25 different levels. Each story introduces or reviews a new phoneme, new words, and special (high frequency) words.


Each new word throughout the program is then repeated at least five times in the book in which it first appears, and then five more times in the next ten books. Prior to starting each story, children are prompted to select the ‘Listen’ or ‘Read’ option which allows for multiple exposures, experiences, and allows for additional reinforcements of growing skills. Over the course of our program, children will learn over 337 decodable words and gain confidence in their reading abilities. Reading Teacher aligns with the science of reading through a tailored, sequenced approach. Our reading program blends the 5 components of phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension into a simple, straightforward program. Each of the 25 levels of our programs is specifically crafted to build on the previous level's skills to lay the foundation in helping children with various reading abilities meet their unique needs through scaffolding and differentiation.

Start Teaching Reading for Free Now!

Access Level 1’s four interactive stories and the accompanying supplemental resources to teach elementary students how to read. No credit card is needed. Join the 42,635 teachers and students using our reading program.

Getting Started with an Online Reading Program

Getting Started with an Online Reading Program

Reading Teacher is a leading online platform designed to teach children in Pre-K through early elementary school.  It's the perfect choice for homeschoolers and in-school classes.  The program is effective for teaching beginning readers, older readers, or readers of any age. Reading Teacher follows the science of reading philosophy.

How to Start a Reading Program

Getting Started with ReadingTeacher.com is easy. The program will help learners succeed in academics as they make their way through school, with its library of over 100 online books and 300 materials to print out.

Have a positive mind frame when it comes to reading and makes it fun. Students learn especially well if they are read too, as they learn that reading is so much more than text.

Educators and Students Fight for the Right to Read

Reading Teacher Best Practices

The best way to excel in anything is to practice. To encourage reading, provide time for silent reading. With the Reading Teacher program, you will have access to relevant, fun, and kid-friendly materials to get you on your way.

Here are some of the best practices when getting started with ReadingTeacher.com:

  • Focus on Meaning
  • Try to engage kids in reading as much as possible
  • Decodables  techiqnues
  • Read aloud to them
  • Teach phonics
  • Provide opportunities for them to read
  • Teach reading as thinking
  • Model your own reading
  • Teach reading strategies directly
  • Demonstrate the usefulness of reading
  • Always support your readers
  • Match reading to classroom practices
  • Link reading to writing

Why Reading Teacher

Are you worried about how to teach your child to read? Well, don't think too much, Reading Teacher can help you! To help children learn to read easily, we offer the most effective reading programs, tools, and resources.


The Reading Teachers program includes videos, lesson plans, cards, quizzes, song sheets, writing sheets, and close to one thousand teaching resources. These will all help to guide you through the best reading adventures incorporating the entire alphabet.  When getting started with ReadingTeacher.com, you will have access to stories, videos, and quizzes to set your children on the road to success. The program also helps you to understand that you are so much more than a teacher. When you are sensitive to the different development levels of new readers, you will see exactly what they need to grow.

Start Teaching Reading for Free Now!

Access Level 1’s four interactive stories and the accompanying supplemental resources to teach elementary students how to read. No credit card is needed. Join the 42,635 teachers and students using our reading program.

What Does It Take To Be a Good Reader?

What Does It Take To Be a Good Reader

At Reading Teacher, we are motivated by a fundamental question: what does it take to be a good reader? The seemingly simple quandary has fostered a considerable amount of controversy; and after a worldwide shake-up in elementary education, it’s increasingly difficult to determine what today’s young readers truly need to become good readers. While reading researchers and teachers continue to debate, it’s clear that a combination of systematic phonics, word recognition, and fostering a love for reading will help youngsters become more confident, competent readers.

What Does It Take To Be a Good Reader

Inevitably, our understanding of what it takes to be a good reader in 2022 is partially hampered by COVID. Nevertheless, we know that systematic phonics exposure is one of the keys to early literacy. At Churchill Primary School, a small school in the Latrobe Valley of Australia, educators share the success of their “purist” phonics-based approach. When Churchill Primary switched from balanced literacy to phonics-based reading instruction in 2018, 31% of its Grade 3 students scored in the bottom two bands in Australia’s National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN). In 2021, after three years of systematic synthetic phonics (which focuses on reading out and blending in reading), there were no students in the bottom two reading bands; a remarkable 75% scored in the top three bands, exceeding the state average of 60%. Churchill’s teachers focus heavily on teaching students the 44 sounds, or phonemes, in the English language and the letter combinations that create them: the basis of synthetic phonics. Anecdotal support for phonics - and its role in nurturing lifelong, successful readers - will likely be strengthened by a long-awaited £1m UK-based study of the effectiveness of popular phonics programs. Funded by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), the trial will assess the results of two systematic, synthetic phonics-based literacy programs used in 25% of UK schools.

Both anecdotal and research-driven support for phonics are instrumental in the development of reading curricula that ultimately foster competent readers. Yet phonics instruction is just one part of becoming a good reader: quality phonics instruction enables word recognition, another pillar of reading competency. In the so-called “4 stages of learning to read", children can recognize almost all letters by the end of kindergarten and navigate various syllables by the end of first grade; they can then recognize common letter patterns by the end of second grade, and become masters of decoding words using phonics by the end of third grade.

Be a Good Reader

Or, at least, that’s the goal: any parent or educator knows that for most children, becoming a good reader cannot be reduced to 4 simple steps. Fundamentally, good readers also enjoy reading - and data rooted in the science of reading support this. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) found that children from disadvantaged backgrounds who habitually read for pleasure still outperform their peers in international assessments. Driven by excitement, good readers are also more likely to pursue a wide range of texts. Educators and parents can help light this internal fire by joining children on their reading journeys, reading together, and using decodable readers and culturally relevant chapter books with thoughtful storylines. Coupled with early instruction in systematic phonics and word recognition, these foundational steps will help youngsters develop into good readers, multi-dynamic students, and thoughtful adults.

Be a Good Reader


  • The question of what it takes to be a good reader is complicated, yet essential for educators and researchers to consider as new reading curricula emerge based on the science of reading.
  • A strong foundation in phonics and word recognition, coupled with a simple love for reading, emerge as three critical factors in the profile of a good reader.
  • Given the impacts of COVID and the individuality of each student, educators and parents are encouraged to pursue a wide range of texts, honor the unique interests and experiences of their students, and embark on lifelong reading journeys alongside them.

Start Teaching Reading for Free Now!

Access Level 1’s four interactive stories and the accompanying supplemental resources to teach elementary students how to read. No credit card is needed. Join the 42,635 teachers and students using our reading program.

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