Reading Teacher

Online Reading Programs for Struggling Readers

Online Reading Programs for Struggling Readers

With the Internet at our fingertips, finding the right online program for your reader might seem like a simple task. At Reading Teacher, we understand that finding online reading programs for struggling readers can quickly evolve into hours of research and unnecessary stress. Summertime is not the time to be stressing about your student’s reading success - which is why we’re taking the time to explain how online reading programs can support and renew the confidence of struggling readers.

Online Reading Programs for beginners

Signs of Reading Difficulty


Take a peek at your most recent search history. If “online reading program for struggling readers” is at the top of your list, you may have noticed some behaviors that now motivate your search. Yet when elementary schoolers spend all day at school, it can be surprisingly difficult to assess their reading proficiency. If you’re unsure, read a grade-level book with your child and take note of the following signs:


  • Sounding out words is a chore
  • Recognizing common sight words is just as difficult, even after regular exposure
  • The reader struggles to manipulate sounds and understand how they form words, suggesting poor phonological awareness
  • They also struggle to summarize or retell stories they’ve just read
    • The culprit? Poor reading comprehension, which usually stems from issues with decoding. When struggling readers focus all of their attention on simply decoding words, the story’s plot line fades into the background.
  • Frequently guessing at or skipping words, despite encountering the same words in decodable readers
Online Reading Programs

Why Is My Student Struggling With Reading?


Understandably, most online reading programs for struggling readers target the most common reading issues: struggles with decoding, sounding out words, and comprehension. Even after their students become strong readers, parents and educators are often left wondering: why did my student struggle in the first place? While no child’s journey is the same, researchers have identified some common reasons for reading setbacks:


  • Remote Learning: The young readers of 2022 represent a unique cohort of students whose earliest reading lessons took place 100% online. The lasting impact of virtual learning on reading proficiency remains unclear, but early U.S. research suggests the long-term negative impact of distance learning on reading fluency.
  • Dyslexia and Other Learning Challenges: In our fast-paced world, reading disabilities and attention disorders such as Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) easily go unnoticed. Without proper treatment, learning disabilities can limit a child’s ability to attend to - and ultimately comprehend - their reading assignments.
  • Mismatch in Learning Styles: Your student may be an auditory learner - but their teacher’s reading curriculum caters to visual learners. Understanding different learning styles can help parents and teachers find online programs for struggling readers that supplement students’ classroom or daytime reading lessons.


Reading Programs for Struggling Readers in Elementary School

Online Reading Programs for Struggling Readers

Especially for struggling readers, establishing a strong foundation in phonics is a #1 priority. The Reading Teacher phonics program includes a library of 100 decodable books and 300 printable materials tailored to struggling readers in kindergarten and elementary school. The first level of Reading Teacher is completely free and grants teachers, parents, and students full access to interactive & decodable stories.


The science of reading shows that phonics are essential for developing phonological awareness: a key building block for lifelong reading. When it comes to reading, research also demonstrates that two senses are better than one. In light of these findings, Reading Teacher’s online curriculum uses audio to introduce students to novel sounds. When students encounter new words and letters, they’ll develop a firmer grip on the relationship between words, letters, and sounds, which is essential for long-term reading success.


As with most things in life, the journey is worth the destination. It may take time, but investing in an online reading program can transform the outlook of a struggling reader.



  • To identify the best online reading programs for struggling readers, adults should take note of poor reading comprehension, struggles with decoding, and other common signs of reading difficulty.
  • Today’s elementary schoolers struggle with reading for a variety of reasons, including a history of remote literacy lessons, learning disabilities, and a mismatch between their learning styles and the reading lessons used by teachers and/or parents.
  • Coupling in-person reading lessons with an online reading program can help meet the needs of struggling readers.

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.

Looking for a New Reading Program? 3 Red-Flag Catchwords for Parents & Educators to Understand & Avoid

Looking for a New Reading Program? 3 Red-Flag Catchwords for Parents & Educators to Understand & Avoid

While we know that foundational literacy skills such as phonics and spelling are best learned from explicit instruction, seasoned reading teachers can run into trouble when a reading program sprinkles “red-flag” catchwords amid mentions of phonemic awareness, lifelong reading, and other honorable goals. To make it easier for you, we’re unpacking 3 red-flag words for teachers and parents to identify and avoid, based on the wisdom of psychologists, cognitive scientists, and other experts on the science of reading.

3 Red-Flag Catchwords for Parents

1) Whole Language Methodology

Many popular reading programs describe their methodologies as "whole language": a widely debunked approach that encourages rote memorization and guessing words from images, among other pitfalls. Other programs use the related term “whole-class” to describe their curricula, which might convey images of students collaborating to achieve reading success: surely, any teacher’s dream. Although the vision behind whole language programs might be a noble one, the research depicts a different reality. Many of these programs minimize teacher involvement and encourage kids to memorize words, guess words from pictures, or simply skip words they can’t read. In an effort to move the whole class forward, many students - particularly those vulnerable to reading challenges, such as children of low socioeconomic status, children of color, and students with learning disabilities - are left behind.

2) Guided Reading

When used without explicit instruction in phonics and spelling, guided reading is another phrase that should raise the hairs of any reading teacher. Also called leveled reading, guided reading involves the separation of students into groups based on their reading levels and facilitating reading within these groups. While this practice continues in many classrooms, there is very little evidence that it actually works. At its core, guided reading minimizes teacher instruction while giving kids in lower reading groups a steady diet of less challenging texts, denying opportunities to stretch themselves - and expand their love for reading - by reading texts above their instructional levels with active teacher support.

3 Red-Flag Catchwords for Parents & Educators to Understand & Avoid

3) Leveled Texts

Related to the concept of guided or leveled reading, teachers and parents are encouraged to steer clear of reading programs that emphasize leveled texts with no use of decodable readers. Although some leveled reading work is appropriate for reading texts independently, classroom reading teachers are advised to focus on decodable texts for early readers whose foundational skills are still developing. Decoding is a critical process that creates brain words: stored representations preserved in long-term memory and used for fluent reading and writing. Explicit lessons in decoding and spelling are brain-changers for literacy, writes educational psychologist J. Richard Gentry: he encourages teachers to “think of the third-grader who in one weekly spelling book lesson on single-syllable homophones can learn the meanings and spellings of sell, cell, sail, great, and grate and commit them to long-term memory.” This lesson increases the child’s brain words, which can be accessed for the rest of their life: the direct result of explicit instruction.

New reading program

At Reading Teacher, we are heartened by a growing movement led by educators, cognitive scientists, psychologists, and parents to improve the “architecture” of both reading programs and the literate brain. We believe our step-by-step program is a meaningful part of this movement, and look forward to providing more tools and news to help you teach the science of reading in your classroom - so stay tuned!


  • Popular reading programs use various buzzwords to describe their curricula: yet many of these programs are ineffective and even detrimental to students’ reading performance.
  • As alternatives to whole-language methodology, guided reading, and leveled reading, cognitive scientists and educational psychologists recommend systematic and explicit instruction in both decoding and spelling for young readers.
  • High-quality reading programs recognize the importance of long-term memory and utilize decodable readers and strong spelling instruction to develop the “architecture” of a literate brain.

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.