A teacher friend of mine wanted to share this advice with our readers. She works with kids with learning problems, so she knows whereof she speaks.

Johnny Can’t Read

Having a child with a learning disability can be a heartbreaking thing. Often our children are so adept at hiding their difficulties behind disruptive behavior that we don’t realize there is a problem. If your child is having difficulty learning to read the first thing you should do is go for a vision test. I’ve done that you say, yes, but there is more to consider than whether your child has 20/20 vision. It could be a muscle control or tracking issue. Ask your child if the letters or words ever dance or jump on the page. If the answer is yes, that’s a good indication of a vision problem that should be referred to a specialist.

When your child has difficulty learning to read, the sooner you become pro-active in the process the better. Don’t leave it up to your child’s teacher to solve the problem, there are several things you can do to help. The most important thing you can do is read with your child. Don’t just have him sit quietly at the table reading silently. Guess what? If little Johnny is sitting at the table quietly reading his reader, he isn’t really. Does that come as a surprise? Well it shouldn’t. Children are very good at entertaining themselves within their own little world. He sits there, book open, head pointed in the right direction and his eyes are open, but where is his mind? Outside playing ball, in his room playing his new video game, anywhere but on the book he’s supposed to be reading.

The easiest way to get around this is to have him read aloud to you. Pay close attention as he reads. If you have a copy of the text so you can follow along that’s even better. But if not, stand behind him or sit next to him and listen to him read. The important thing here is to have him read aloud to you or another member of the family on a consistent daily basis. It doesn’t matter who he reads to, as long as he reads. It doesn’t matter what he reads, as long as it is at his comfort reading level. If he struggles with it, it’s above his level. This isn’t the time to reach for a higher level, but the time to build confidence and fluency. It doesn’t matter if the child has read the material before. In fact, reading a story he is familiar with will increase his confidence and fluency.

News flash—the best way to teach your child to read is to make him read aloud everyday. Invest fifteen minutes a day, everyday, even if it is five minutes three times or ten minutes twice a day. Be lavish with praise and gentle corrections for mistakes. Don’t make him labor at sounding it out, count to three silently and give him the word and move on. Provide reading material at his comfort level in topic areas he finds interesting. Try reading with your child and see his reading level climb!


  1. Nightingale // July 13, 2008 at 1:06 PM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
  2. Mary Ricksen // July 13, 2008 at 8:23 PM  

    Too bad that there aren't any answers for my sister's beautiful autistic daughter.

  3. Mary Marvella // July 13, 2008 at 11:09 PM  

    I'll ask my friend if and how she deals with that kind of problem.

  4. Nightingale // July 14, 2008 at 10:02 AM  

    Good information for people with young children. My boys are grown men but I'm fortunate both love to read.

  5. Beth Trissel // July 14, 2008 at 2:19 PM  

    Very good information in this post.

  6. Joanne // July 16, 2008 at 9:07 AM  

    Your information is solid and right on. Very informative.