Julie McKinney, MS
September 29, 2021

Is your child struggling with reading? 6 ways their school can help

Many children have reading problems in the early grades, but schools have strategies to help. See these 6 ways the school can help a child struggling with reading.

Reading skills start early and build quickly

Many children struggle to learn to read in the early grades. Reading instruction starts with basic building blocks that lay down a good foundation of reading skills. But if a child doesn’t master one or more of these skills, then the new skills that build off them will be even harder to learn. This can start a cycle that leaves the child behind, frustrated and feeling like they’re not as smart as the other kids.

Kids start their literacy skills very early when they learn to identify the sounds that make up words. Then they learn the ABC’s and understand that the letters make sounds. Then they learn to match the letters with sounds. From there it gets more complicated, with sounds that need two letters, like “th” or “ee”. Even in 2nd or 3rd grade, when most kids can read basic stories, they are still learning how to read more fluently (smoothly, accurately and quickly), and how to comprehend what they read. They should continue to become better readers all the way through high school.

What can you do? Starting in kindergarten, ask your child’s teacher regularly if they are reading on grade level and if they are having trouble with any literacy skills.

What can the school do to help a child who is struggling with reading?

Here are 6 things the school should do to help students who struggle with reading.

Your job as a parent or caregiver is to make sure the school does these things! Read more about how you can help your child at home if they struggle with reading.

1. Identify the reading challenge

  • Schools assess students’ academic skills at the beginning of each year and at frequent points throughout the year. They should know very quickly if a child is behind in any reading skills.

  • They should also know which components of reading your child is having trouble with. This will help them to address the problem.

  • Your task: Ask about your child’s performance regularly, but especially at the beginning, middle and end of each grade.

2. Try some new teaching strategies–interventions–in class

3. Assess progress continually

  • The school does benchmark assessments a few times a year, and more frequent curriculum-based assessments, which give immediate snapshots of how your child is doing with daily lessons.

  • These checkpoints should tell the school if the interventions are helping your child catch up with their skills.

  • Your task: Stay involved. Ask how the new strategies are working.

4. Adjust teaching strategies as needed

  • If your child is not making progress within 2-3 weeks, the school should reassess and try new strategies.

  • There are many different ways to teach and practice new reading skills–they have to find the ones that work best for your child.

  • Your task: Advocate for different ones if your child is not making progress in a few weeks.

5. Evaluate for learning disabilities if needed

  • If a couple months have gone by and your child is still struggling with reading, the school should do a special education evaluation to see if your child may have a learning disability.

  • A learning disability, like dyslexia, would qualify your child for special education services, including specialized instruction.

  • Your task: Don’t wait too long. If you have any concerns about your child’s ability to learn in school, ask for an evaluation. This is your legal right, and the school must comply.

6. Provide special education services if they qualify

  • All publicly funded schools are required to provide special education services to help children with disabilities learn successfully.

  • If your child qualifies (based on the evaluation), the school will work with you to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IEP spells out your child’s educational goals and the services and support that will help them get there.

  • Your task: Learn about the special education process and stay involved. Know your rights and advocate for your child’s needs.

These are the school’s responsibilities to make sure every child learns to read. If you are involved and know what to ask for, your child can get support and catch up.

Check out our Literacy Support Resources to learn more!

  • Julie McKinney, MS

    Director of Training / Health Literacy Specialist

    Julie McKinney has over 25 years of experience in health literacy, plain language, and adult education. She has deep expertise in writing information so it’s easy to understand, and has developed trainings for educators in clear communication.

    At Exceptional Lives, she ensures that our content is clear and friendly. She also works to strengthen relationships with community partners, and designs trainings that help them connect with families.
    Julie also has experience parenting kids with ADHD, learning disabilities and significant intellectual disability. She has ushered her own children through schooling and transition to adulthood, and is committed to helping make this process easier for others.

    Her core view is that good relationships are the key to just about anything we hope for.

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