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What do you do when a person struggles to read?

person struggles to read

What do you do when a person struggles to read?

Most of us would say that the answer is obvious: Give them more practice.

Maybe we should give them phonics instruction that is more engaging, and then give them more practice. Maybe we should give them enriched vocabulary instruction, and then give them more practice.

Yet, this isn’t what science tells us. Research into how language skills develop shows us that there is a direct link between the strength of spoken language skills and reading fluency. These spoken language skills that allow us to effectively process language have to be strong for reading skills to develop. These are also the skills that are most often overlooked by reading instruction, because most curriculum developers assume they are already present.

These spoken language skills include multi-sensory integration. When it comes to language, three senses have to work together: What you see, what you hear, and what you feel when you move your mouth. We did a post on this once before, which you can read here. If these three senses are not solidly connected, reading skills will develop less efficiently, making reading harder.

Phonological awareness is something that many teachers and reading experts are talking about these days. Without the whole host of processing skills that exist under the umbrella of phonological awareness, then reading and spelling will be more labored. These skills include the ability to break words up into individual sounds, recognize even subtle changes in those sounds (“Is the word ‘free’ or ‘three?’”), and sequence them properly, among others. This is distinct from phonemic awareness, which many schools and reading curricula seek to improve, but is only a small piece to the broader necessary skill set.

Even small weaknesses in these skills can make reading that much more difficult. Ever know a student who could read, but they just didn’t like to? While there can be a number of reasons for this, mild weaknesses in early language skills can be one root cause.

It’s a good thing people know all of this about language and reading, though. It has allowed for the development of very effective forms of reading instruction that give the brain the types of exercises it needs to build these early language skills, then quickly apply them to reading and spelling. Doing the proper types of activities often enough, for a long enough period of time, in the proper order, and for the proper duration allow for building reading skills relatively quickly and very effectively.

If your child reads slowly or has trouble sounding out words, or just plain hates to read, it could be because of an early language skill weakness. For more information about how NOW! Programs™ build these necessary skills, email us at [email protected], or visit our website at