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November 2015 Newsletter

Help! My Child Hates to Read!

Seven Tips for Parents of a Struggling Reader

About the Author

Sandra Vroon and family
Sandra Vroon (with her family, above) is a homeschool mom and Reading Recovery teacher who has helped hundreds of children. She is also an adjunct professor at a local college and university where she shares with other teachers (and soon-to-be teachers) how to instruct, assess, and remediate young readers. She especially enjoys tutoring and teaching homeschool children and coaching their parents. Sandra co-authored the book Best Practices for Teaching Reading at Home—A Guidebook for Moms and Dads. She lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan and can be reached at

By Sandra Vroon
Guest writer

“My daughter just doesn’t seem to pick up reading like her older siblings did.”

“My son is struggling with reading. I’ve tried different programs with him, but he is still behind and he doesn’t like reading.”

These are the comments I hear from moms who have been working tirelessly trying to teach and motivate their children who are having difficulty reading. Many moms are at their wits’ end after having tried many different reading programs. Their children are also frustrated and dread the time of day when the reading books and workbooks come out.

I recently heard one mom talking to another homeschool mom about possibly putting her child in the local school since she was not making progress with her at home. Both the mom and her child were frustrated. The other mom wisely pointed out that if she put her child in school now, her child would be entering behind the usual grade level and would still need extra support.

If you are experiencing these sorts of reading struggles, you know how frustrating they are for both you and your child. You may even find that your relationship with your child is stressed. This is not what you planned for when you started homeschooling.

What is a mom to do when her child finds reading difficult? Consider the following tips when working with a struggling reader:

1. First of all, don’t blame yourself or your child. Even if your child was in a regular classroom of her grade level peers, she could very well still be struggling with reading. The truth is that about 80% of children learn to read in spite of what program a teacher is using. About 20% of children find the process of learning to read difficult and fraught with all kinds of twists and turns. These children are pulled out of class for extra reading support with a small group of peers who may or may not struggle with the same difficulties. As a homeschooling parent, you are able to give your child one-on-one help, and you can focus on the areas you know are difficult for your child.

2. Focus on your child’s strengths as a reader and writer. Often, it is easy to get caught up in all the things your child cannot do yet. Make a list of all the things your child can do. Keep track of all the words he already knows how to read and the words she already knows how to write. Make note of whether or not your child knows where to start reading on a page and whether or not she can point to words as you read to her. What letters and sounds does she know? Is she using pictures to predict what the story is about? Is she able to answer questions and talk about the story?

3. Pick two or three things to focus on with each lesson. With so many things that need work, it is easy to focus on too many teaching points at once. Let the others go. You can get to them later. Keep working on these few goals until your child has mastered them. For example, your goal might be for your child to simply get her mouth ready for the first sound of a word when reading—even if she does not know the word. Keep modeling, practicing and praising until she consistently does this on her own. Sometimes you have to go slow when teaching the basics so that later you can go faster.

4. Work at your child’s easy level. This may mean scaling back several levels in reading. You may be anxious to keep advancing your child in reading since he is already behind. However, you will find it refreshing to go back to easier reading and books. Your child will be more successful and will gain confidence. It can be hard to find easier books at lower levels, which is why many parents keep moving their child through their reading curriculum. Go back and reread stories and passages your child has previously read. This gives him a chance to practice his fluency and to understand what strong reading sounds like.

5. Read, read, read! The best way to improve your child’s reading is to have her read. Remember—you don’t have to limit your reader to materials you have at home. There are all sorts of reading resources available at the local library, not to mention the internet. There are websites that provide reading passages for many different reading levels. Some are free and some require a small fee. The important thing is to find passages that are not too difficult for your child to read. A quick measure of a reading passage’s difficulty is “The Five Finger Rule.” Your child puts up one finger for every word she does not know. If she gets to five fingers on one page, that book or passage is too hard for now. Put it away, and pull it out later. But keep reading aloud to your child. She is able to understand stories at a higher level than she can independently read.

6. If you need a fresh start, take one. Put away the books and worksheets for short time while you and your child regroup. Do not let discouragement get the better of you and your child. Remember why you chose to homeschool in the first place; the time you spend with your child and the specific instruction you can provide is invaluable.

7. If you and your child are still frustrated, seek out the help of an expert. Sometimes, as the homeschool parent, you can almost be too close to the situation. Having another set of eyes on your child can be very helpful. Someone who has experience working with struggling readers can provide new observations and insights. If your child was feeling sick and running a temperature for several days, you would not hesitate to bring her to a doctor for diagnosis and treatment. The same is true for reading. As the parent, you know something is not quite right. Getting a professional diagnosis and remediation plan can help you and your child get on the right path and minimize discouragement and struggles. So find someone in your area who specializes in reading tutoring. Share with the tutor what you are noticing at home and what solutions you have tried. When you meet with the tutor, bring some of your materials along to show. Observe your child’s tutoring sessions and learn from the tutor. Ask what you can do at home to continue the progress your child is making.

Remember, HSLDA members have access to our “Find a Professional” searchable database.

Hang in there! You can do this. You knew that homeschooling was not going to be the easiest choice, but for your struggling reader, it can be the best choice.

Internet Resources

Reading A-Z

Scholastic Book Wizard

Homeschooling With Dyslexia, where you can download Marianne Sunderland’s e-book Dyslexia 101, or take one of her online training classes

The Struggling Reader

Resources for Parents

The 3 R’s by Ruth Beechick

Read for the Heart by Sarah Clarkson

Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt

Mommy, Teach Me! by Barbara Curtis

Best Practices for Teaching Reading at Home by Sandra Vroon and Susan Harrell

Curricula to Help Struggling Readers

All About Reading/All About Spelling

The Logic of English

Reading Horizons

Barton System for Reading and Spelling


Dianne Craft’s Right Brain Phonics

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