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Empowering Struggling Readers: Strategies to Support Growth in the Classroom

Empowering Struggling Readers: Strategies to Support Growth in the Classroom


Every classroom has students who may face challenges in reading. As educators, it is our responsibility to provide effective support and interventions to help struggling readers thrive. In this article, we will explore strategies to assist struggling readers in the classroom. By identifying their specific needs, implementing targeted instruction, fostering a supportive learning environment, and leveraging technology and resources, educators can empower struggling readers to develop their skills, boost confidence, and achieve reading success.


Identify Individual Needs:

Begin by assessing and identifying the specific needs of struggling readers. Conduct diagnostic assessments to determine their strengths and weaknesses in phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. This will help tailor instruction and interventions to address their specific areas of struggle.


Differentiate Instruction:

Implement differentiated instruction to meet the diverse needs of struggling readers. Provide small-group or one-on-one instruction that targets their specific areas of need. Use instructional strategies and materials that are appropriate for their reading level, including decodable texts, scaffolded support, and graphic organizers.


Explicit Phonics Instruction:

Struggling readers often benefit from explicit and systematic phonics instruction. Break down phonetic concepts and teach them explicitly, emphasizing letter-sound relationships, decoding strategies, and phonemic awareness. Provide ample practice opportunities and multisensory activities to reinforce these skills.


Scaffold Reading Comprehension:

Support struggling readers in developing comprehension skills by providing explicit instruction in reading strategies. Teach them how to preview texts, make predictions, ask questions, and summarize information. Model thinking processes and engage in guided practice to help students internalize these strategies.


Foster a Supportive Environment:

Create a nurturing and inclusive classroom environment where struggling readers feel safe to take risks and ask for help. Encourage peer collaboration and implement cooperative learning activities. Celebrate progress and provide positive reinforcement to boost their confidence and motivation.


Leverage Technology and Resources:

Integrate technology and resources to support struggling readers. Utilize educational apps, digital platforms, and audiobooks that offer interactive and engaging reading experiences. Provide access to assistive technologies like text-to-speech or speech-to-text tools to enhance their reading and writing abilities.


Build a Home-School Connection:

Establish effective communication with parents or guardians to involve them in supporting struggling readers. Share progress updates, provide suggestions for home practice, and recommend reading materials or strategies that can be used at home. Encourage parents to read with their children and foster a love for literacy beyond the classroom.



Supporting struggling readers in the classroom requires a multifaceted approach that addresses their specific needs and fosters a positive learning environment. By identifying individual needs, differentiating instruction, providing explicit phonics instruction, scaffolding comprehension, fostering a supportive environment, leveraging technology and resources, and building a strong home-school connection, educators can empower struggling readers to develop their reading skills and achieve academic success. Remember, with patience, targeted interventions, and a belief in their potential, we can unlock the potential of struggling readers and help them embark on a lifelong journey of literacy and learning.

My Child Struggles With Reading Comprehension: What Should I Do?

My Child Struggles With Reading Comprehension: What Should I Do?

Think of your child’s favorite story or picture book: the one that you read together, without fail, every day. They know the words, the characters, every twist and turn. But when your child attempts to branch out and read a new book, they struggle to get through the first page.


What’s going on here? All too often, we see kids who love listening to adults read their favorite stories -- but when they’re asked to read new books, kids often lack the reading comprehension skills to add another title to their personal library.


If your child struggles with comprehension, they’re not alone; in fact, most readers continue to develop these skills well into adulthood.


The journey starts here. Read on for five actionable ways to boost your reader’s comprehension skills, build their confidence, and set them on a lifelong pursuit of new stories.

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What is Reading Comprehension?


Reading comprehension is the ability to understand and interpret what we’re reading. Literacy experts divide this skill into three key elements:


1.   Decoding

For early readers, each sentence is a code. Through phonics instruction, they’ll learn to associate letters with their sounds and slowly unravel words -- and, eventually, full sentences.


2.   Vocabulary

Kids add to their personal “word banks” through wide and varied reading. Imagine each new word as a “boost” for reading comprehension: when kids recognize more words, they’re able to read with more fluency.


3.   Knowledge

Using books as a vehicle for understanding, kids uncover more about the world, people, and themselves.


5 Ways To Improve Reading Comprehension


If your early reader struggles with reading comprehension, literacy experts often reference the following five strategies to support them. Apply these tactics in the classroom -- or at home! -- to sharpen kids’ decoding skills, expand their vocabulary, and deepen their knowledge.


1.   Choose Books at the Correct Reading Level

Reading should be a challenge, but it shouldn’t be so hard that kids lose motivation to unpack a too-tricky text. If you’re not sure which reading level is right for your child, ask their school and teacher how they assess students’ reading levels.


Don’t be afraid to ask how your child’s school determines and uses reading levels to select books, so that you can make appropriate selections on your own. Tools like the Scholastic Book Wizard allow you to “level” a book or discover new, age-appropriate reads for your child.


2.   Read Aloud Together

Sometimes, our eyes move faster than our brains. By reading books aloud, children tend to go slower, which gives them a moment to both hear and process what they’ve just read.


3.   Reread Favorite Books -- Then, Try New Ones

Sure, you’ve read the same story about a magical frog for the past two weeks. But if your child latches onto a particular story, rereading it together builds their fluency and familiarizes them with a set of words, which will transfer to new books. Stick with it and share in your reader’s excitement: on the distant horizon, new books await!

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4.   Establish a Book Club

It’s relatively easy to create a book club: simply enlist your reader and any siblings or friends, and gather the crew to read and discuss the same book. When they talk about what they’re reading, kids get to verbally process the book and discuss major themes, ideas, or characters -- all of which are essential to reading comprehension.


As the book club facilitator, here are some questions to ask your members before, during, and after reading:

  • Why did you choose this book? What interests you about it?
  • What’s going on in the story? What do you think that character will do next?
  • Can you tell me what happened in the book? What did you like about it (or what did you not like)?


5.   Supplement the Reading

If you’re reading a book with a TV, movie, or audio format, consider watching or listening to these materials after completing the book. Oftentimes, visual or auditory renditions of a book help readers develop a fuller picture of the story, or consider alternative character depictions or plots. When they realize that people envision characters and stories in unique ways, early readers unlock the power of imagination -- which encourages them to discover new stories.

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If your child struggles with reading comprehension, remember that this is a challenging skill: one that can take months and even years for readers to develop.


But with these five strategies and a supportive, patient adult, early readers will build the confidence and curiosity they need to push through -- and, eventually, zoom through -- the books of their choosing.



  • Literacy experts link reading comprehension skills to decoding, vocabulary, and knowledge.
  • There are several ways to help struggling readers improve their reading comprehension, including reading aloud with an adult, rereading favorite books, and choosing books at the appropriate level of difficulty.
  • Regardless of which strategy works best for a particular reader, remember that reading comprehension is a complicated skill -- one that we develop throughout our lifetimes.

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10 Free Ways to Help Struggling Readers

10 Free Ways to Help Struggling Readers

You’re staring at your computer screen, researching activities for your struggling reader. You click on something promising, only to find yourself - yet again - staring at a paywall.

Where are the free activities for struggling readers? you ask yourself.


It’s a question as old as the Internet. But over the years, teachers and parents have banded together to compile some of the best - and 100% free - resources and activities for early readers, many of which are available to anyone with internet access.


Today, we discuss some of the most common reading challenges that kids face, followed by 10 free ways to help struggling readers reach the next level of reading achievement.

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Reasons Why Kids Might Struggle With Reading


With any new skill, there are bound to be moments of challenge and frustration. Some of the most common reasons why your child might struggle with reading include:


  • Poor phonemic awareness, meaning that it’s especially hard for the child to recognize the sound units (phonemes) in spoken words
  • Challenges with decoding
  • Learning disabilities, such as dyslexia
  • Lack of time or motivation to read


These are just a few potential culprits for reading challenges, but of course, every child is different. It’s important to connect with your reader and their teacher to identify common patterns of struggle, as well as any social or developmental factors that may shape their reading journey.


Free Resources to Help Struggling Readers

1. Phonological and Phonemic Awareness Cheat Sheet


Reading teachers love these fun and free “cheat sheet,” courtesy of Teachers Pay Teachers. The worksheet keeps 34 of the essential phonological and phonemic skills in one place, and helps teachers track their students’ phonics development.


2. Teach Your Monster to Read


Inspire a struggling reader with the power of magical literacy games. In a single game, kids will cover everything from letters and sounds to reading full sentences. They’ll mingle with monsters while developing invaluable reading skills; and best of all, the computer version is completely free.


3. Free Children’s Stories


This website is committed to providing free E-books and audio stories for kids. When they’re practicing those pesky phonemes, audio stories are especially helpful for young ears to hear. You’ll find tales for kids ages 3-10, as well as middle school novels and rhyming stories.


4. Free Phonics Games and Activities


Due to COVID-19, many educators have generously shared their classroom reading resources online. This comprehensive E-book is an aid for any classroom or parent working with readers at home. You’ll find a unit’s worth of spelling activities, phonics games, and writing practices to engage readers of all skill levels.


5. Letterland Activity Bank


Letterland offers loads of free resources for readers and parents on their website. If you’re looking for no-fuss reading activities for home, simply pull a game from their handy activity bank. There’s Short Vowels Bingo, a Letter Hunt, and lots more, and each activity has a specific reading objective.

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Other Ways to Support Struggling Readers

1. Offer Specific and Positive Encouragement!


Sometimes, kind words and clear directions are the best way to support a struggling reader. Both parents and teachers can celebrate the small wins: while reading with your student, focus on what they do well, and observe what you like about their reading or spelling. For example: “You spelled the word like it sounds. Awesome listening!”


2. Share Your Reading Mistakes


Adult readers make mistakes, too. When you’re reading with a child, you can model good reading comprehension strategies, like re-reading a confusing sentence or looking up the definition of a tricky word.


If a young reader sees an adult encounter and overcome a reading challenge, they’ll feel more confident to navigate their own. And yes, reading together is almost always free - not to mention, lots of fun.


3. Be a Homework Helper


If you know your child is struggling with reading or any other academic areas, check in about their homework every day. For older students, it can help to sit down together and “chunk” their workload into manageable parts. As a parent, homework offers an easy way to support your child, track their progress, and communicate any concerns to teachers.


4. Celebrate Their Interests


If your child refuses to read a certain genre of book, it’s important to remember that all reading counts: comics, magazines, and dinosaur encyclopedias included. The more children enjoy the book they’re reading, the more excited they’ll be for the next one.


5. Visit the Library


Your local library is a treasure trove. Many libraries host children’s reading clubs, author visits, and other exciting activities that will push struggling readers beyond their regular routines. Get out of the house or the classroom and support your local library: it’s a win-win for your student and your community.

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  • It can be difficult to find effective resources for struggling readers, but some of the best reading resources are already online - and they’re 100% free.
  • Being a supportive and proactive adult is also free of charge. By taking time to connect with your child and their educators, you’ll be ready to help them navigate all of life’s challenges: reading included.

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.

How to Teach Phonics to Struggling Readers

How to Teach Phonics to Struggling Readers

Phonics is the pathway to reading success - and for struggling readers, it can also be the biggest obstacle.


If you’re the parent or educator of a struggling reader, you’ve likely done your research. You know that phonics instruction is crucial for early readers, but finding the “right” decodable books and phonics readers can be daunting. To streamline your process, we’ve identified some of the best phonics intervention activities to support and re-energize a struggling reader.

How to Teach Phonics to Struggling Readers

Phonics Intervention Activities


Imagine: your struggling reader just came home from school with a list of phonics intervention activities. Sounds a bit intense, right? While this language may seem intimidating, phonics interventions are actually designed to empower young readers with the skills and confidence they need to read more complicated texts.


So, what exactly is a phonics intervention?


A phonics intervention is any activity that seeks to improve a student’s knowledge and application of phonics: the reading method of connecting letters and their sounds. According to the National Reading Panel, phonics intervention activities should be explicit, systematic, taught in small groups, and focused on specific skills: for example, focusing on one or two types of phoneme manipulations rather than multiple types.

Teach Phonics to Struggling Readers

Some of the best phonics intervention activities include:

  • Phoneme Manipulation Activities. Phoneme manipulation is crucially important when teaching phonics to struggling readers - and for many students, it’s also one of the most difficult skills they’ll practice!
  • Phonics Books & Phonics Readers, and Decodable Books.
  • Hands-on Reading Strategies.


To make these activities easier for readers and their teachers, let’s cover some key questions & their answers.


What is phoneme manipulation?


Phoneme manipulation describes the ability to change individual phonemes (the smallest sound units) in a word. Change /p/ in “top” to /b/, and - like magic - you’ve manipulated a phoneme!


What are the types of phoneme manipulation?


There are three main types of phoneme manipulation:

  • Phoneme Addition: for example, begin with the word “ray” and add /g/ to the front of the word, resulting in “gray”
  • Phoneme Deletion: for example, begin with the word “plant” and take away /l/, resulting in “pant” (this is a bit trickier, as you’re deleting the second phoneme from the consonant blend /pl/!)
  • Phoneme Substitution: for example, changing the /w/ in “wall” to /b/, resulting in “ball”


Teachers and parents can give these challenges orally, which adds variety and excitement to daily reading practice: a huge bonus for struggling readers.

Teach Phonics to Struggling Readers

Phonics Books for Struggling Readers


Whether you’re searching for decodable books or phonics readers, it’s overwhelming to sift through the hundreds of books designed for struggling readers. But just like other phonics interventions, the best phonics books should focus on the following reading skills:

  • Before moving onto more complicated phonics books, students’ earliest books should focus on both short and long vowels. Because every single syllable of every single word includes a vowel sound, this is not a skill to skimp on!
  • CVC and sight words. Sight words are high-frequency words that can’t be sounded out, while CVC words start and end with a consonant and contain a vowel in the middle. When reading phonics books, focus on these word categories before moving onto more difficult phonics patterns.
  • Search for phonics patterns. Get your red pen out: it’s time to mark up your decodable book! Identify a common phonics pattern, then have a struggling reader mark the pattern in their phonics book. They’ll be mentally prepared to read these phonics patterns in-context, which can be difficult when they don’t have a chance to see & mark them beforehand.
    • Because decodable readers focus on a single phonics pattern or word family, they’re an excellent choice for many struggling readers.
Teaching Phonics to Struggling Readers

Hands-On Reading Activities for Struggling Readers


For struggling readers, tuning into all the senses is key. After reading a decodable book, readers can practice new words with some of the following hands-on phonics activities:

  • Bubble Wrap Flash Cards: Place flashcards on bubble wrap on the floor. Reader reads the card - then stomps on it! Educational and satisfying.
  • Word Slide: As readers sound out a word, have them tap their arm going down while segmenting the sounds. When they’ve successfully sounded out the word, they’ll “slide” their hand down their arm again to blend the sounds together. See an example of this strategy here.
  • Letter Tiles: use magnetic or plastic letter tiles to practice phonemic manipulation. Whether they’re on the fridge or the kitchen table, letter tiles are a fun, budget-friendly, and low-pressure reading activity.



  • While finding the best phonics interventions can feel overwhelming, supportive adults are encouraged to use a variety of strategies to support struggling readers.
  • To support struggling readers, we recommend a mix of phoneme manipulation activities, phonics readers and decodable books, and hands-on reading activities.

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.