Reading Teacher

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.

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. 

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.