How to Improve Reading in Children Who Are Reading Below Grade Level

A child who is reading below grade level is most likely frustrated and embarrassed. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation website, 34 percent of fourth graders tested in 2009 did not have adequate basic reading skills. If your child is reading below her grade level, step in and help your child improve her reading skills. By working with your child one-on-one, you will give her the tools she needs to read more fluently and catch up to the rest of her class.

Mother helping daughter read book (Image: MIXA next/MIXA/Getty Images)

Step 1

Meet with your child's teacher, guidance counselor or other school official to express your concerns over his reading ability. In the book "Parenting a Struggling Reader," authors Susan Hall and Louisa Moats, Ed.D, suggest you be "assertive, respectful and informed" when you meet with the school authorities. Ask for extra help, and determine together if he needs different reading strategies to succeed. Do not be intimidated asking questions on your child's behalf. As Hall and Moats point out, time is of the essence in identifying and solving reading problems.

Step 2

Focus on the basics of decoding skills to help your child read unfamiliar words, advises the University of Texas Center for Reading and Language Arts. Depending on her reading level, buy diagraph, blends or single letter flash cards from a school supply store and work together until your child recognizes the blends or letters in isolation. Look through books and easy readers you have at home, and find words that contain the skills you have been working on. Introduce and practice sight words to help your child learn common words that don't follow standard decoding patterns and rules.

Step 3

Work with him every day playing games, doing puzzles and learning new skills. According to the website Math and Reading Help, games like hangman, Scrabble and crossword puzzles can help your child read and spell better. For younger children, play letter concentration, word bingo and matching games. Keep your sessions fun but focused.

Step 4

Expect your child to focus and concentrate when you work with her. Be encouraging and calm. Sit down with your child, and ask her what books she would like to be able to read. Her involvement will help her understand the importance of your time together, states Montana State University. Plan your sessions ahead of time, and vary the activities. Do flash cards first, review her word list and then play some games.

Step 5

Read aloud to improve his listening ability, concentration skills and comprehension. A 2008 study published in the "Archives of Disease in Childhood" and led by Elisabeth Duursma, Ed.D., found that reading aloud to children helps the child understand syntax, grammar and story structure. These skills are vital as your child works to bring his reading ability up to grade level. Read books that are more complex in nature, and stop frequently to assess his comprehension level. Make this a fun time for both of you.

Things You'll Need

  • Flash cards

  • Readers

  • Sight word cards

  • Puzzles

  • Scrabble

  • Crossword puzzles

  • Letter concentration game

  • Word bingo game

  • Matching game

Tip

Buy or borrow some new books that she has not seen before to keep her interest level high.

Consider hiring a tutor if you cannot work with him on your own.

Even if you only have a few free minutes, work with your child every day.

Always be encouraging and understanding.

Be alert for any teasing within the family or by her friends.

Warning

Have his eyes evaluated to make sure there are no vision problems.

Watch for signs of dyslexia, and have her evaluated if you suspect a problem.

REFERENCES & RESOURCES
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