Decoding Solutions for Struggling Readers

“I hate reading. Don’t make me do it. I don’t want to read anymore.” These are not simply the sounds of an obstinate child. If you’ve heard this before, and are hearing it frequently, then your child may be in need of some extra help. Dyslexic children often have difficulty with decoding, which is important for reading proficiency. When your child experiences difficulties matching sounds and letters, frequently gets stuck on words while reading, or guesses words based on the first letter or two, he becomes frustrated. And it’s easy to understand his or her frustration. No one wants to read this way. So don’t get yourself worked up into a frenzy every time your child’s daily reading lesson nears. These are simple clues that you can use to help improve your child’s decoding skillsbooks

While there are many solutions for struggling readers, it’s important to know that these strategies are dependent on your child’s unique learning style. And that the presentation of these strategies will make a difference in how they are received. A few of the most common of these strategies include sounding out words, using picture clues, and chunking or breaking up word parts.

Sounding Out Words
There are a number of ways to practice this concept with your child. You could try implementing a ‘sound of the week’ into the reading lesson. Simply use letters or letter blends to create a sound that will be practiced throughout the week. Keep this in an area that your child can see easily (wall, white board, billboard, etc.) and use as a reference. Allow him or her to practice this sound each day during reading time. Create a list of spelling/vocabulary words that contain the sound. Include additional practice by having your child find objects in the home that use the sound as well. Making the activity more fun or hands-on will help keep your child engaged and reading time more enjoyable.

Using Picture Clues
Reading can also be made to be more fun and engaging by using pictures to decode content and text. Use visually appealing books and encourage your child to look for clues in the pictures to help make sense of the reading material. Use sound recognition from the week’s lesson to reinforce the learning concept. Identifying words through meaning using pictures and then practicing or applying the sound being taught can help link the two strategies together and make reading less of a struggle. Additionally, you can create anagrams using picture that provide a clue to each answer while still employing the sound of the week (act/cat, tar/rat, tab/bat, etc.).

Chunking/Breaking Up Word Parts
An additional method to help struggling readers with decoding is by chunking or breaking up words. Chunks of words can be found in the beginning, middle, or ending. Recognizing these chunks help struggling readers to figure out new, unfamiliar words when reading. A great way to practice this concept is through the use of word walls. Use key words from the reading material and vocabulary words to build a colorful wall of words. For instance, each week may have a word wall using new word chunks from spelling words formed from the sound of the week. Little “a” sounding words, for example, could be used to create the chunk word “at,” which can then include the following: cat, hatch, atom, bat, etc. Have your child practice writing and saying these words each day. You can also have your child find pictures or objects of these words as well.

There are many ways you can implement these decoding solutions for struggling readers into your homeschooling lessons. Allow your child to lead the way, forming these learning concepts around the individual needs and interests of your child. Never be afraid to try new things, be willing to accept that something may simply not be working for your child, and remember to celebrate even small accomplishments – and before you know it, reading will become a loved subject.

If you have a child with dyslexia or another learning disability, you may want to look into Verticy Learning as a way to help your child learn. Verticy specializes in home-based curriculum for struggling readers and utilizes many multisensory techniques and language tools. Learn more about Verticy Learning on the Calvert website.

Crystal Pratt is Calvert Education Services’ Social Communications Specialist.  She has been involved in education for 20 years.  Crystal is a certified teacher, a writer, and a lover of all things that sparkle.