6 Tips Helping Children Read Difficult Text

A question we get asked quite frequently at I Can Read is how to help young readers with difficult text.  As students move from level to level, the content will naturally get harder. It is fair to say that sometimes even age appropriate text can be too difficult for young readers. This is a big problem as it can lead to disillusionment.

So what do we do when a child is unable to read most of the words in a passage or story?  Read on for our top tips to help your young reader.

1. Read a Level Lower

Our first suggestion for you if your child is reading a little behind what is expected of them is to use easier books at home. It seems like an obvious thing to say but so many parents persevere with the “too difficult” text and everybody loses out. If you are unsure what books to read please ask any of our I Can Read Reading Specialists. They are at hand with lots of wonderful suggestions to help and encourage your child with their reading.

2. Pre Teach New Vocabulary

Another excellent tip is to pre-teach new vocabulary. Vocabulary that is not explained or defined can be one of the biggest challenges to beginning readers. If a word is not explained in the text or you think your child will not be able to figure it out from context, then explain it to them in advance. Or better yet get them to keep a “Vocabulary Journal” that way they can keep a record of all the new and wonderful words they learn.

3. Offer Guidance with Complicated Sentences.

In addition to difficult vocabulary, you may also spot sentences that are quite long or wordy. Ask your little learner a question about the sentence to see if they understand it. If they can’t answer your questions then help them break the sentence down into smaller components. It is a step by step process but if you get into this good habit in the early days you will see this approach will become second nature to them.

4. Vary the level of book  

Books that you expose your young readers to should be of varying levels. Deliberately choose some easy books and some harder ones.  Give less support with the easier texts and more with the harder ones. Harder texts give students opportunities to learn and grow, while easier and familiar texts gives them confidence in their reading skills.

5. Try Revising Phonics.

At I Can Read we start with the basics – the sounds that letters make. We must learn to crawl before we can walk after all, or decode before we can read, as the case may be. All our classes are ability based so we can ensure that our students are placed at the correct level. If they need to potentially revise their phonemes or there are problematic knowledge gaps an I Can Read assessment will tell us very quickly what the issue is. This is the first step to help bring them back to the point they should be reading at in school.

6. Give Children Space & Time 

Finally, children can sometimes feel huge pressure in the classroom to get their reading right as they have a large audience. As a parent the very act of setting aside the time to help them with their reading makes a huge difference. It gives them the space and time to make mistakes and it means that they feel more prepared in the classroom if they have practised in advance at home.

All the above advice is just the starting point, of course you can do even more, but this is an excellent place to start. We assure you it will have a high level of effectiveness and will transform frustrating reading sessions into another opportunity for your child to learn and develop their love of reading.  

I Can Read Singapore

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