It’s easy to feel helpless when your child is a struggling reader. After all, you want nothing more than for your kids to succeed in life and feel confident in school. 

Thankfully, there are many ways you can help your child become a better reader.

Here are 10 of the best reading strategies and tips to help your child.

A mother reading with her child in bed to help her overcome her struggles

These are practical tips and strategies you can apply to help your kids overcome their reading struggles. We like to split them into 2 equally important parts.

  1. Practical things you can do to create a more conducive and appealing home environment for reading
  2. Direct reading instruction

Creating the Ideal Reading Environment

#1 Build a Reading Nook

A reading nook is a quiet area designed exclusively for your child’s reading.

Depending on your living space, it can be an entire room, under the stairs, in a closet, or even just a tiny corner of a room.

This special reading space is crucial.

It really helps make reading more appealing to your child because it’s essentially a safe-space your child “owns,” which they look forward to spending time in. This, in turn, leads to a more positive outlook on reading.

A child reading a book in her special nook

Some things to consider when building your child’s reading nook:

Location is everything. The reading space needs to be in a quiet area, free from televisions and other distractions. It’s also ideal to choose a spot that has excellent natural lighting. If this isn’t possible, think about getting some reading lights.

Choose fun color schemes but remember, this is your child’s space. So it’s essential to get their input on how it’s decorated. Better yet, have your child help you with the construction. It’s an ideal opportunity to bond and create some fun memories.

Soft cushions and pillows are a great way to make the space more inviting and comfortable.

Tents and canopies are extremely popular with kids and work great when building a reading nook within a small section of a room. However, be sure there’s adequate space for an adult, so you can snuggle up with your child for reading sessions.

And lastly, a reading nook is not a reading nook without books. So make sure there’s plenty!

This brings us to our next tip-a variety of books.

#2 Keep a Variety of Interesting Age-Appropriate Books and Reading Materials

There are 2 critical points to keep in mind when choosing books.

  1. Age appropriate
  2. Kids Choice (variety and choice)

Why choosing age-appropriate (or skill-appropriate) books are important

Books that are currently too advanced will end up being a frustrating experience for your child when reading. This negative experience can ultimately put them off reading.

Only reading books that are too easy for your child results in no challenge. Without a slight challenge, your child won’t have the opportunity to develop their reading skill further.

Books at the correct level for your child’s ability will challenge them slightly while still holding their interest. This slight challenge will steadily improve their literacy skills.

There’s a quick and easy way to find books at the correct level for your child called the 5-finger test.

Using the 5-Finger test to find appropriate books

  1. Choose a book, or have your child choose a book
  2. Turn to a random page with a decent amount of text
  3. Have your child read the page. Every time they get stuck and cannot read a word, have them hold up one finger.

After reading the entire page, if:

0 – 1 fingers are raised

The book is probably too easy

2 – 3 fingers are raised

The book may be just right for your child. Presenting a slight challenge and introducing them to new words.

4 – 5 fingers raised

The book is probably too difficult for them to read right now.

This 5-Finger test is just a guideline and something that’s not set in stone. So use your discretion. If your child’s heart is set on a book that’s too difficult, consider choosing it as a book that you can read TO your child. 

Freedom of choice

Suppose you’re only choosing books based on your preferences. In that case, you’ll soon find your child losing interest and developing an attitude towards reading.

On the other hand, you also don’t want to leave it up to your child to choose every time. 

For instance, if a boy loves dinosaurs and only reads dinosaur books, you’ll find that while he holds impressive dinosaur knowledge, he has a feeble grasp on other topics.

This is why it’s best to let your kids choose books they’re interested in. Every now and then, you can introduce an age-appropriate book of your choosing on another subject.

And finally, try keeping a variety of reading mediums (picture books, chapter books, kids magazines) from different authors. This will expose your children to different styles and increase their language skills.

Having this variety is an excellent way to get your child reading more and making it easier to establish a regular reading routine which we’ll discuss next.

A group of 1st graders reading together outside

#3 Establishing a reading routine

You’ve heard the saying, practice makes perfect.

This is also true for reading.

If your child is not reading often, their reading skills will regress.

This is why you must establish a daily reading routine for your child.

Not only will it improve their reading skills, but it will also help develop a love for reading.

People are creatures of habit. Kids especially enjoy routine and look to parents to bring structure into their lives.

Your child will look forward to daily reading sessions, especially the ones where you’re present with them.

#4 Reading with your child

Although all the reading tips mentioned are crucial, special mention needs to be given to this one.

Reading to your child should already start when they’re newborns. This early reading helps them in:

  • Learning to speak
  • Expanding their vocabulary
  • Improving their language skills
  • Developing their bond with you

And if you weren’t able to read to them in their infancy, don’t worry; it’s never too late to start because you should continue reading to them as they get older.

When your child reads aloud to you, show a genuine interest in what they’re reading. Ask them questions, discuss the characters and the story.

And always use encouraging words and compliment them on a job well done.

In addition to improving their reading literacy, it will enhance their cognitive development and communication skills and boost their confidence.

Reading aloud to your child and having them read to you every day is not negotiable.

This concludes our section on practical tips you can start implementing to improve your child’s reading ability and develop their love for reading.

Now let’s look at teaching strategies for improving your child’s literacy skills.

A mother reading with her daughter under a canopy

Teaching Your Child to Be a Better Reader

In this section, we’ll look at proven strategies for teaching your child to read.

You know your child better than anybody else. So when it comes to your child’s reading, you are the best teacher.

Reading well is not intuitive. It’s not something your child will pick up naturally as it requires explicit teaching.

And the best way to teach reading is using phonics.

#5 Phonics instruction

Phonics is undoubtedly the most effective method of teaching kids to read and write by helping them understand the relationship between letters, words, and their associated sounds.

You’ll find most struggling readers cannot effectively recognize the sounds of the letters they are reading because they lack phonological awareness (the ability to hear and manipulate sounds in spoken words) and phonics skill.

In addition to helping your child develop a clear understanding of how the English language works, phonics skills help them decode unfamiliar words and sound them out.

Instead of memorizing thousands of words, your child only needs to master the around 44 sounds to read.

And as they progress, these phonics skills will play a crucial part in their reading fluency.

How to teach phonics to your kids?

Worksheets and other reading aids are a great way to reinforce lessons and further develop phonics skills. So too are playing I-Spy and other rhyming games.

Now obviously just playing games and activities is not enough. You also want to invest in a reading program for kids that you can work through with your child.

a colorful chart with all the phonics letters

#6 Learn to Read Programs

Using reading programs, you can become your child’s teacher. However, they aren’t all the same.

Some are meant for teachers, while others are created specifically for parents with no teaching experience.

Some go over the basics, and others focus on reading skills at certain literacy levels.

For struggling readers, you want to use a comprehensive program covering everything from A – Z.

You also want to ensure the program helps develop your child’s phonological awareness. This is an essential skill required for progressing with phonics.

Overseeing the reading process with your child is invaluable, as you’re able to work through all the critical components of learning to read. You’re also able to help rectify current problems and ensure your child has a rock-solid reading foundation.

We recommend the Children Learning Reading program. However, it’s always a good idea to do your own research into a program that you feel will be best for your child.

The following tips are ways to approach each lesson of your chosen program.

#7 Short But Frequent Lessons

Kids have really short attention spans.

So you don’t want long lessons that drag on. Your child will just get bored and allow anything and everything to distract them.

Dealing with this is simple.

  • Schedule two to three reading lessons every day
  • Keep each lesson between five and ten minutes if you have a young child.

This will keep your child engaged and help them retain a positive attitude when reading.

You can increase the length of lessons if you have an older child.

#8 Take it slow

There’s no reason to rush through reading lessons trying to cover as much ground as possible. Your child will get there eventually. It’s more important that they master every lesson. This will help them to better understand the language and build self-confidence. 

So taking an incremental approach where you introduce just one new concept at a time is vital.

Allowing your child to repeat both reading lessons and reading sessions will help them:

  • enhance their reading foundation
  • Improve comprehension
  • sound out unfamiliar words and improve word recognition
  • Teach reading and spelling separately

#9 Mastering reading is easier than mastering spelling

For struggling readers, it’s best to teach reading on its own as this will allow them to progress faster through their reading, as they won’t have to stop and first learn to spell each word.

#10 Use the 5 senses

 A great way to assist the learning process is in using touch, taste, smell, hearing, and movement during lessons. Otherwise known as multisensory teaching.

There you have it. 10 practical and actionable tips you can start implementing today to improve your child’s reading.

Now let’s take a quick look at some of the reasons why kids have problems with reading.

Problems and difficulties associated with reading

As mentioned earlier, the English language is not intuitive and requires direct teaching to become a fluent reader.

As a result, many problems can affect your child’s reading ability. These can be caused by a reading disability, insufficient practice, poor teaching, or even developmental and learning disabilities.

The list below covers most of these problems.

  • Dyslexia
  • ADHD
  • Visual impairment
  • Speech and language disorders
  • Limited vocabulary
  • Reluctant, anxious reader
  • Issues with decoding words
  • Confusion with word families
  • Problems with sounding out words
  • Comprehension difficulties
  • Unfamiliarity with sight words
  • Poor phonemic awareness
  • Reading skills regressing over time

Please look out for our upcoming article, which will deal with each reading problem in greater detail.

a child struggling with his reading in class

When should you get professional help?

We recommend that every parent apply these reading tips and take charge of their children’s learning to read development before seeking the help of a reading specialist.

You can read through our article on the average reading level milestones to get a rough idea of where your child should be at their current grade level.

However, if you suspect your child has dyslexia or any other learning disability, please make an appointment with a doctor or specialist as soon as possible. Even though there’s a good chance a child with dyslexia will see a dramatic improvement in their reading literacy using the tips above, it’s still advisable to speak to a professional.

What if I have no teaching experience?

You may be worried that you have no formal training as a teacher, so how can you possibly help your child overcome their reading struggles.

This is a common concern most parents face.

In reality, though, you’ll usually find the best readers are the ones who spend time at home reading with their parents.

There are many benefits to holding private reading lessons at home.

In classroom scenarios, it’s easy for children with a reading difficulty to fall behind their peers or struggle with essential concepts that never get picked up.

Whereas at home, your child is the only student.

Allowing you to actively monitor their progress and give them as much time as they need to master essential concepts and work through any difficulties they face. With consistency, your child will blossom into a proficient reader

There are many excellent reading programs available that only require you to follow the program step-by-step and have patience in working through the lessons with your child. No teaching qualifications are needed.

It’s genuinely amazing overseeing your child’s reading and witnessing their breakthrough moments in overcoming their struggles. And when you keep working at it with them, you’ll see a gradual improvement in their:

  • Proficiency and fluency when reading
  • Reading comprehension skill
  • Spoken language and communication skills

A girl reading a book in her tent with her teddy

A Summary of Our 10 Actionable Reading Tips

  1. Build a reading nook
  2. A variety of interesting age-appropriate reading material
  3. Establish a reading routine
  4. Read with your child
  5. Focus on phonics
  6. Invest in a learning to read program
  7. Keep lessons short but frequent
  8. Take it slow
  9. Teach reading and spelling separately
  10. Use multisensory teaching

Make a note of these tips and start working through the list today.

Teaching reading may seem a bit overwhelming at first, but it does get easier every day. And soon, both you and your child will look forward to each reading session and lesson. Remember, you are your child’s best teacher, and you’ll play an integral part in transforming your little one into a good reader.

PS. You can learn more about the program we recommend by accessing the links below.

Our Children Learning Reading Review

Official Site