How Do You Help A Struggling Reader: Essential Tips

How Do You Help A Struggling Reader: Essential Tips

How Do You Help A Struggling Reader?

Moms often search the Internet wondering, “How do you help a struggling reader?”

Whether you’re a homeschool mom or not, we’re all aware of the importance of reading. 

Understandably, many moms worry when their children are resistant to books and reading.   Often these kids are diagnosed with learning difference such as ADHD or dyslexia.  Regardless of whether or not your child has a specific diagnosis, we can all agree on one thing.

When kids struggle with reading, they need help.  Period.

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Characteristics of Struggling Readers

When a mom expresses concern about her child’s reading, I typically ask specific questions to tease out root issues.

  • How old is your child?
  • Can your child rhyme?
  • Is your struggling reader able to hear sounds in isolation and then encode them into a word?
  • Does your child have the ability to decode (sound out) words?
  • Can your child understand what he has read (reading comprehension)?

Again, it’s important to understand that reading is not simply sounding out words written on a page.  Reading is a process that includes multiple component skills that ultimately work together to produce a truly literate reader.

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Struggling Readers Need More Than Decoding

Here’s an unfortunate reality.  Often when children are able to “read” aloud, we think that reading has occured.  However, that is not necessarily the case.

The ability to “decode” is simply one step in the reading journey.   And each reading skill builds upon the other.

The components of reading include:

  • Phonemic Awareness
  • Decoding
  • Fluency
  • Comprehension

Understanding the basic elements of reading will help moms best equip struggling readers.

Let’s take a look at reading piece by piece and see how it equips you to see your child’s reading journey differently.

Logic of English Tree

Phonemic Awareness- Foundational Reading Skill

One of the first reading skills is called phonemic awareness.

Words are all made up of units of sound called PHONEMES.  When a child starts to recognize that all spoken words are composed of individual units of sound, he is developing the skill of Phonemic Awareness.

Let’s use an example.  A child hears a word such as BUG.  We want him to identify the three sounds that make up this word.

  • Buh (we don’t want to emphasize that -uh sound.  I’ve included it to emphasize the “sound”),
  • short U, and
  • hard G
  • “BUG”

When a child can hear sounds in isolation, we know he is developing the skill of phonemic awareness.  This skill alone is not universal and often needs to be explicitly taught.  

Teaching Your Child How to Rhyme

Assessing Phonemic Awareness Skills: Try This

Phonemic awareness is a foundational reading skill that comes BEFORE we attempt formal reading instruction.  If your child is struggling to “read,” it is critical that you assess his or her ability to audibly “hear” sounds.

Put down the reading curriculum, and let’s figure out what’s going on.  Start with rhyming and word manipulation actvities.

1.    Assess phonemic awareness in your child by saying aloud component sounds of simple CVC words. 



       Is your child able to make sense of the word(s)?

2.   Can your child rhyme?

Cat, bat, sat, rat

Star, far, bar, car

Struggling Readers & The Ability To Rhyme

Again, many parents and educators mistakenly believe that children automatically develop the ability to rhyme. When your kid resists reading, don’t assume anything.

If your child can’t rhyme or hear sounds in isolation, this is an indication that there is a gap in phonemic awareness.  This skill must be developed in order for a child to read well and with understanding.


NEVER skip foundational reading skills in fear of your child being behind.  It’s not worth it.  Ever.

Struggling Readers Often Need Speech & Language Support

If your child struggles to “hear” isolated sounds and isn’t “getting it” with practice, it’s time to get an eval by a PRIVATE SLP.  An SLP refers to a Speech and Language Pathologist.

Here’s the caveat.  You want a PRIVATE SLP evaluation (outside the public school system).

I say this because sadly, many SLPs within the public school system are handcuffed to limited government guidelines.  What they diagnose, the school system has to pay for.  Get it?

(This is not a criticism of the amazing SLPs in the school system.  They are simply limited by constraints of government and red-tape.)

Auditory Processing Disorder

How Do You Help A Struggling Reader?  Understand Phonics

A child sees the letter sequence D-O- G and then produces the sounds “D”- “short O”- “hard G.”  This skill is referred to as DECODING and the process of decoding is involved in PHONICS.

Once he pieces together the sounds in his mind, he says the word DOG.   This is referred to as ENCODING. 

When seeking help for your struggling reader, it is important to assess your student’s phonics skills.

Letters, Letter Combos & Associated Sounds

Children who struggle with reading often need extra support with basic spelling or phonics rules.  For example, in the English language, the letter A is represented by four possible sounds:

  • the short a sound as in CAT,
  • the long a sound as in CAKE and
  • the “ah” sound as in ALL.
  • the “uh” sound as in ABOVE

All letters in the English language have sounds associated with them.  Some have one specific sound and others have more than one sound.  The sounds are all dependent on letter combinations within words.

Homeschooling with Dyslexia

Ever heard that English doesn’t make any sense?

While many believe that the English language doesn’t make any sense, this is not true.  Some letter combinations, called digraphs, appear confusing to many readers (including adults.)  But once explicitly taught, the patterns are easy to recognize.  

Digraghs include:

  • CH-  Church, Christ, Charlotte
  • SH-  Show

An Orton-Gilligham approach to teaching reading and spelling is a solid way to explicitly teach these rules in a way that makes sense to struggling readers.

There are several solid homeschool reading curriculum options based on this extremely effective teaching method.   Two excellent Orton-Gillingham based homeschool reading programs are All About Reading and Logic of English.

Check out this article for more suggestions to equip your child with a solid foundation in reading.

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The Complexity of Reading

Going back to our DOG example, the student will walk through the following steps as he decodes the word:

  • Determines that the 3 letter symbols represent 3 separate sounds
  • Creates the sounds individually
  • After saying the individual sounds out loud, he puts the sounds together in his own mind.
  • Finally, he blends them together so as to clearly say the word DOG

Note:  Just because a child says the word “dog” does not mean that the child is visualizing an image of a dog.

Visualizing: An Overlooked ESSENTIAL Reading Skill

Being able to visualize is a skill that many children do not have.  Once kids hit 3rd grade, we often see a rise in “sudden” reading comprehension issues.

Visualizing is an essential reading skill to check for as your child develops the ability to read.   Many children with ADHD, Autism and other executive functioning issues, lack this essential skill.

Adults assume that many language skills (including rhyming, hearing sounds, visualizing, etc) are automatically learned by osmosis.  This is NOT THE CASE!  These often need to be explicitly taught.

Check out this amazing series of resources by Janine Toole, PhD.  Her materials are FREE on Kindle Unlimited. 

I cannot more HIGHLY recommend her resources.  Specific to reading comprehension, Visualization Skills For Reading Comprehension, is AMAZING!!  Don’t overlook this essential skill.

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Reading Fluency

As decoding becomes second-nature, the goal is for kids to become quicker to recognize familiar letter patterns and words.

Using our DOG example:

  • Eventually, the student will see the three letter symbols, D-O-G, and immediately know and verbalize the correct word.  He verbalizes the word aloud effortlessly and moves on to the next letter sequence with speed and confidence.

The ability to read with speed, proper inflection and confidence is what is termed “FLUENCY.”

Reading Comprehension

As you seek help for your struggling reader, you’ll begin to tease out where your child’s reading weakness lies.

Even when successful with earlier stages of reading, many children start to show reading comprehension deficits around 3rd grade.

It is not surprising that this skill would lag behind the other reading skills.  Understanding what is read requires:

  • A child identify how to pronounce a word correctly using his relatively new decoding skills,
  • Once properly spoken aloud, your student must move to the next word,
  • He then has to maintain the previous words in his mind (working memory) in order to process them as a whole,
  • The child to pull from his often limited vocabulary in order to understand.

Here’s the kicker.  Regardless of whether you have a “highly verbal” child, receptive language deficits can still be present.

Homeschooling with Dyslexia

When Kids Hate Reading: There’s A Reason!

Language processing deficits and gaps in oral and auditory language skills are a HUGE issue for children (and adults).

Most educators and administrators are clueless to this essential issue impacting way too many children. 

Instead of seeking root language issues, many of these kids have been labeled:

  • LAZY
  • Slow
  • Much worse…

If You Want To Help Your Struggling Reader, You May Have To Go Backwards

If you have a struggling reader, it’s critical to look at foundational oral and auditory language skills.  Deficits in these essential skills appear in many different areas of life and can have devastating consequences if not addressed.

Symptoms of oral and auditory language gaps include:


  • Resist reading at all costs, 
  • Reads a book but then completely “forgets” what he/she read,
  • Cries at the thought of school work,
  • Struggles with word problems in math,
  • Consistently responds with, “I don’t know,” or “What?” when asked questions,
  • Uses demonstrative and indefinite pronouns (non-specific words) such as: “That thing over there,” (to describe a pencil on a desk),
  • Can’t follow multi-step directions,
  • And more.

Check out Dr. Daniel Franklin’s Helping Your Child With Language-Based Learning Disabilities for more information.  

Gaps In Language Processing & Development Must Be Addressed

If your child demonstrates any combination of these issues, know this.  There is likely a gap in language development.

These kids often struggle terribly with a sense of shame, feelings of never being enough as well as social issues. 

Please don’t yell at or shame them by telling them to work harder or pay attention.  Equip themGet a private Speech and Language Eval by a reputable SLP.  

All About Learning Press 20 Best Tips

So what do you do for your struggling reader?

Do not be afraid if your child struggles with reading.  Your child can read.  I truly believe every child can thrive and succeed when equipped based on their own unique needs and wiring.  

There is always a way.  By diving deep, and by being willing to think outside-the-box, you can equip your child to become a reader.  Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

Homeschool ADHD Cheat Sheet

Homeschooling To Equip Struggling Readers To Thrive

One of the greatest blessings is living in a country where we can homeschool our children.  For tips for the new homeschooling mom, click here. 

Homeschooling affords parents the ability to seek out the best possible resources and support to meet the needs of the individual learner.

Check out this series of posts here to help you in your journey to equip your uniquely-wired child to thrive academically, emotionally, and in all the things.

  1. Orton-Gillingham Homeschool Reading & Spelling Curriculum That Works
  2. Best Homeschool Language Arts Curriculum For Learning Differences
  3. Strategies For Struggling Readers

Don’t panic, Momma!  We’re in this together.  Comment below with your questions about how to help your struggling reader.

Listen To Episode 29 & Be Encouraged To Parent Your Unique Child Differently!

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Essentials Vol. 1 Complete Set

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How to Homeschool – Language Arts

How to Homeschool – Language Arts

How to Homeschool- Language Arts

So many moms have been desperately searching for answers as to how to homeschool their kids. 

Interestingly, ”pivot” is the trending word right now with everything going on in our world. I’ve mostly seen this word used in regards to businesses that are pivoting in order to meet the current needs of their customers. 

However, I believe that it’s time to consider this term in a new light.  I want to suggest that you resolve to make a pivot in your perspective of your child’s education.

A Shift in Perspective

If you are new to the idea of home education, you may be one of those moms looking to know how to homeschool. 

I am here to tell you that homeschooling is such a wonderful gift and has been the greatest blessing for my entire family. 

However, when I first started educating my children at home, I too didn’t really know the first thing about how to homeschool.  

Just like so many are experiencing now, I only knew what I knew at the time. 

I had grown up going to public schools.  I went to a public university, and then on to graduate school for teaching at that same public university.  I learned how to teach in an institutionalized system.

It took me years to finally figure out that homeschooling is not school at home.  Homeschooling is a lifestyle focused on educating each individual child so that they grow into a thriving adult.

Grace To Take It One Step At A Time

So if you are overwhelmed and searching for answers as to how to homeschool, give yourself lots of grace.  Learning anything is a process and does not happen overnight.  

With so much information out there, it is to be expected that you may struggle to know where to begin and then how to proceed. 

Practical “how to homeschool” steps

Here are some practical strategies that are easy to incorporate into your home.  Best of all, these are totally free, extremely effective and stress free. 

Think of this time at home as your opportunity to make simple shifts to help your child make huge gains in language arts.

1. Start with the 3 Rs

I consistently recommend to my private community of moms and my clients that when in doubt, focus on the 3 Rs.  Yep, I am talking all about reading, writing and good old-fashioned arithmetic. 

There is a classic homeschool book out there by this title.  You may want to check it out:  The 3 Rs by Ruth Beechick.  

Today we will focus on the first of the Rs:  Reading.

To learn more about my recommendations with math, check out this post and video here.  

2. Go Backwards In Order To Move Forward

Whether you are a veteran homeschool mom or a newbie, if you know that your child is struggling in any academic area, I suggest you get on your hands and knees and thank God!

Woo hoo!   This is news that you want to know sooner rather than later.  

Use this insight into your child’s weaker areas to find the educational gap

3. How to Homeschool… Find the Gaps

Specifically, if your child hates to read or resists reading at all costs, this is your clue that there is some sort of gap in reading skills.  Take your next step… identify where the reading gap lies.  Ask yourself:

In the end, simply slowing down to spend time intentionally focused on reading skills will be your best bet.   Ultimately, my number one tip to help your child get over the reading hump is…

How To Homeschool Peacefully

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4. Remove The Learning Barriers 

When you first begin homeschooling, it is a great idea to spend a week or so just reading good books TO your kids.  Reduce the stress-related anxiety that so many children experience when told that they must read aloud and independently. 

Unfortunately, way too many children have been forced to read independently and at increasingly difficult levels way too soon and too fast.  They then shut down and begin to hate reading often as a fight-flight-or-freeze response. For more on learning to look behind the behaviors to get the root issues, read Behind the Behaviors.

It takes time for the brain to develop the pathways that allow reading to become a natural and enjoyable experience.  We have got to back off and allow children time to develop their reading skills at their pace.  

Tragically, that reading stress response becomes the norm in so many children.  Reading is the enemy for these “pushed-too-soon” kids. 

Children simply need intentional one-on-one instruction from a loving adult.  Our kids need to be given the grace to focus on where they really are and not where the “standard” says they should be. 

5. Read to your child

With everything in life, internal motivation is the game changer that propels us forward in any endeavor.  We want our resistant readers to learn to enjoy the experience without stressing about making mistakes.   This is why it is absolutely fundamental that we give our kids opportunities to enjoy books.  One of the greatest ways to do this is for parents to read aloud TO their kids.  

Read to your child and don’t for one minute feel any guilt about it.  In fact, tap yourself on the back because you are providing your child with what they need to move forward.

When you do ask your child to read:

  • allow them to choose the book,
  • allow them the grace to read a book “below” level with confidence

Each successful reading experience adds up and they will grow as a reader.  Check out this post all about the importance of reading as a family and grab our Family Favorites Book List printable. 

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5. Reading Strategy: Narration

Narration is another great strategy that you can use to help guide your reading time and is an excellent way to strengthen reading comprehension. 

This method simply involves you reading aloud to your child.  Find a book that your child loves, and spend some quiet time together.  Allow your child to ask questions.  Talk about the illustrations. Have fun.

Conversations and dialogue between a trusted adult and a child is not only relationally life-giving but also builds up language and reading comprehension skills.  Don’t underestimate the power of conversation and the spoken word.  

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6. Don’t Forget Your Teens 

Even older children enjoy being read to and reading aloud to your teen eases the resistance to read a book “just for school”.

We want our teens to develop a love of reading as a form of entertainment that is NOT always a screen, right?    

Any extra time you spend getting lost in story with your teen is a relational win AND it is an excellent way to expose your child to greater ideas and concepts about the world.

Find a book that you know will interest your teen and read a chapter together each day.  Have deep, meaningful conversations with your teen.  Ask thoughtful questions and listen intently to their answers with gratitude.  

Bottom line, when you read aloud to your child of any age, you remove barriers to reading, increase foundational language skills and deepen relationship.  Win!  Win!

Homeschool Math Planning

How to Choose A Homeschool Language Arts Curriculum?

When homeschooling (and in life), don’t spend the time fighting with your child.  Trust me… I am preaching to myself here.  It’s just not worth it.  Let’s help our kids figure out what they need so they can move forward and strengthen their next foundational skill.   

Most importantly, let us encourage our kids to know that God has designed them with gifts, passions and purpose.  And how cool is it that we get the privilege of walking this journey with them?!  Yay!

So, now that you have the homeschool foundational principles, you may be ready to choose a homeschool language arts curriculum.  Check out these top choices as reviewed by veteran homeschool moms.  These are especially valuable options for children with learning differences.  

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you do end up purchasing any of the recommended items through this link, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you. I appreciate your support.

Phonics Activities at Home

Phonics Activities at Home

Phonics Activities

As a homeschool family, we’ve been collecting alphabet tools and phonics activities for years.  Teaching my girls to read has definitely been a highlight in my journey as a homeschool momma.

Lucky for me, my youngest is now 6, so I’ve been pulling out phonics materials left and right as I prepare to teach him to read.  Fortunately, he’s been obsessed with the alphabet since he was 2 years old!  

Special Needs Leads To Phonics Early

My son’s special needs include a pretty significant speech delay.  Understandably, this has led to lots of frustration and severe meltdowns that started when he was around 18 months old.  You can read more about our journey with our boy here.

On the flip side, his brain differences have also given him the ability to hyperfocus.  His ability to zero-in on a subject has been directed towards the alphabet since he was a babe.  Ultimately, this is a gift which we hope to harness for his success.  Learn more about harnessing the power of the ADHD brain here.  

preschool alphabet and phonics fun activities

Simple Phonics Activities

The following phonics activities and resources are very user-friendly.  Each one can help you support your preschooler’s language and pre-reading skills in fun and engaging ways.  And of course, learning is greatly enriched when mom and dad are a part of the process.

These can also be used for any child who needs to strengthen their basic phonic, spelling and reading skills.

(Ultimately, age doesn’t matter.  Always focus on the next step in your child’s educational journey.  That next step is always based on YOUR child’s needs and NOT artificial benchmarks.)

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Leap Frog Series

These DVDs are educational screen time at its best.  I was introduced to this little series about 10 years ago when I was teaching my oldest to read.  She’d hit a wall in her motivation to read (probably because she was too young to have mommy pressuring her into academics).

In first-time mom desperation, I headed over to my local homeschool store to seek advice.  One of the veteran homeschool moms who worked there wisely told me that it was time to “back off” my child.

“She is so young.  Give her a break and make learning fun.”

Among other ideas, she suggested the Leap Frog Letter Factory DVDs.

I took that sweet lady’s advice, and took a step back from the formal instruction.  My daughter and I played with magnetized letters and read fun books (think Dr. Suess).  And while in the car, I popped in the Leap Frog Series.  Both of my daughters ended up loving these, learned all of their letter sounds and my screen-time guilt dropped significantly.  Winner! Winner!  Chicken dinner!

So when my son came around 4 years later, it was a no-brainer to use them again.   This series originally began with the Letter Factory DVDs.  Now you can stream them on Hulu.  

Here’s why I always recommend the Leap Frog series to support phonics instruction.

Leap Frog & Multisensory Phonics

Leap Frog provides a multisensory approach to preschool learning.  Using multiple areas of the brain to receive and process information is key to retention of new information.  Leap Frog Company does a great job to provide this!

1. Visual Input

The use of imagery allows the child to receive phonics information visually.

2. Auditory Input With A Focus on Rhythm

Song and rhythmic chants hit the the musical and auditory areas of the brain.

3. Kinsethetic

If your kiddo is anything like mine, the dancing alone will support longterm memory.  

Leap Frog Has Expanded

The Leap Frog Series has since expanded their DVD series to include many more subjects including numbers, shapes, vowel-teams, digraphs and more.  The story lines engage and support your child’s early learning.

All About Reading Pre-reading

Melissa and Doug Alphabet & Number Sticker Set

I love this sticker set of ABCs and Numbers from Melissa and Doug.  It contains multiple sheets of letters designed in a variety colors, font styles and prints.  These sticker sets can be used in a variety of phonics activities.  Here are a few ideas.

  • Spell words aloud (or simply say the phonics sounds) and have your child choose and stick the correct letters
  • Spell your child’s name on a large piece of paper.  Then have him identify the letters, peel them, and stick them on top of the hand-written letters.
  • Have your kiddo choose his own words to stick and spell

These stickers peel easily without ripping making these a great choice for littles needing fine motor skill practice.

Melissa and Doug Letter & Number Stamps

The Melissa and Doug resources can withstand the beatings that often come from being used by young children.   This alphabet and number stamp set is another tool that can be used in phonics activities.

My son loves using the stamps to “spell” his name and the names of our family members.  When he was into trains, we spelled the names of the Thomas & Friends trains. 

Always use your child’s interests to drive learning.  

I also like these stamps because the set includes basic punctuation marks and numbers.   Therefore, it can be used for years and in a variety of ways.  The numbers are an added bonus for obvious reasons.

preschool phonics activities

Fine Motor Skills & Phonics

Strengthen your child’s fine motor skills when using the Melissa & Doug stamps.  Simply gripping, inking and imprinting the stamps on paper strengthen those fine motor skills.  The options are endless with this stamp set.


  • Practice Letter Name Identification
  • Practice Letter Sound to Letter Symbol Correspondence
  • Word Building by Copying
  • Spelling By Sound (once simple sounds are mastered)
  • Number Recognition
All About Reading Pre-reading

All About Learning Press

When your child is ready for formal reading instruction (don’t rush), you’ll definitely want to check out All About Learning Press.  This company supports phonics, reading and spelling instruction using the orton-gillingham method of instruction.

The program is created for the homeschool teacher in mind, so there is never a need to worry about “not being a teacher.”  Any homeschool parent can pick up this program and teach reading and spelling with confidence.

Check out this post to know more about why you may want to try this in your homeschool.  

Fun Phonics Activities In Your Home

What about you, Friend?  What phonics activities do you enjoy using with your younger student? Do you find it challenging to get your child interested in learning?  

For tips as to how to engage your preschooler or younger child in learning, check out this post.  Tips For Teaching Preschoolers.  

(Hint… this principle works for all disinterested students and adults.  Goes back to interest-based learning.)

Picture Books Library Lists

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Teaching Your Child How to Rhyme
20 Best Tips
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Homeschool Writing Instruction with IEW

Homeschool Writing Instruction with IEW

Homeschool Writing Curriculum That Works

Homeschool writing instruction does not have to be painful for the student or the homeschool mom.  So many homeschool moms worry when their child hates to write because she often hears…

I can’t do this.

My hand hurts.

I hate this!

Please.  No!!

Don’t fear, Sweet Momma.  Today I offer up some stress-free writing strategies to help reluctant or resistant writers build confidence in writing.   No more tears and stress!  Check out the podcast episode and find relief from the homeschool battles.

While you can use the strategies I provide without purchasing a curriculum, I do share my absolute favorite homeschool writing program.

Hint… Andrew Pudewa… Institute for Excellence in Writing.   Can I say amazing??!!!

When in doubt, remember your goal.    Think outside-the-box with me and let’s equip our kids to thrive!

Also, for a more in-depth explantation and guide to remove writing barriers for our kids, listen to Episode #20.  Or, if you prefer to read it, check out the blog post My Child Hates to Write! 7 Homeschool Writing Tips

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20 Best Tips for Teaching Reading and Spelling

Simple Tool to Help Struggling Readers, Part 2

Simple Tool to Help Struggling Readers, Part 2

A Homeschool Mom’s Simple Tool to Help Struggling Readers

This is Part 2 in a series to help homeschool moms equip their struggling readers for reading success.  In this second part, I am going to share with you one simple tool to help struggling readers at home.  If you have not read Part 1, please do so.  🙂

Like many homeschool moms, when I began homeschooling my girls almost 10 years ago, my first goal was to make sure my oldest daughter could read.  It seemed that all of her preschool-age friends were getting ready to go to traditional kindergarten and soon I was dodging questions from their respective mothers.

“Why are you homeschooling her?”

“Aren’t you worried about socialization?”

“Public school was good enough for me, so its good enough for my kids.”

My First Educational Goal

In response to the inquisition I experienced from well-meaning mom friends, I naturally became a little internally defensive.  Like many ladies who make the decision to homeschool their children, I began my homeschool journey with a specific goal in mind.


This was my mantra.  I figured that once I taught her to read, I would feel a little more at ease as I navigated the homeschool skeptics.

Searching for the Perfect Reading Program

In my effort to teach my oldest daughter how to read, I perused the local homeschool store.  I am so fortunate to live in an area where homeschooling is very popular.  The community of homeschool families is HUGE and so yes, we have a local homeschool store that could rival Target in its ability to suck me in for hours.  It is a haven of books, beautiful boxed curriculum, phenomenal art and composer study materials, maps, Bibles… math manipulatives… it is a homeschoolers dream!

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20 Best Tips for Teaching Reading and Spelling

Mountains of Books

I cannot count the number of hours I have spent sitting on the floor of the local homeschool store surrounded by mountains of books.  Honestly, those memories are heavenly.  Anyway…

Needless to say, I searched and searched for the perfect reading curriculum because I was determined that my daughter would read.  I had to accomplish that goal and fast.  No, my motives were not pure, but God is merciful and I have learned better now.

Ultimately, it wasn’t an expensive boxed reading curriculum that ended up being the key to effective reading instruction for my daughter.  Nope.  It was a $15 paperback book that opened the world of reading to both of my girls.

Interestingly,  both of my girls (and their momma- aka Me) have since been diagnosed with ADHD.   I did not realize this at the time because I was of the belief that ADHD was a “fake” diagnosis.  I believed that my solid Christian parenting-style would eliminate any unwanted  hyper, impulsive and distracted behavior in my children.  Ugh!!! That is an entirely different story that you can read about here.  So sorry for that rabbit trail… like I just mentioned… ADHD.


Just be aware that my girls both have attention-based learning issues and one of them has been diagnosed with Auditory Processing Disorder.  APD is an auditory disorder in which the child has normal hearing ability but the brain is unable to accurately process and distinguish that auditory information.  This can hinder reading and language development.  You can read more about Auditory Processing Disorder here.

Back to that amazing reading program that I soon discovered.  Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons was the program that I was able to use with my hyper and highly-distracted girls.

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons

This book offers highly effective reading instruction for children with special learning needs.  Quite frankly, I think it is a great remediation resource for older children who are struggling with their ability to decode and blend words.  The goal of this book is to get the ball rolling per say.  Decoding skills and fluency are developed quickly using this method.  Reading comprehension methodology is not specifically addressed.

100 Easy Lessons uses an instructional strategy called the SRA DISTAR Method.  Prior to being introduced to this Instructional Book, I had no familiarity with the method despite my education training in graduate school.  However, I found the logic and reasoning behind the teaching method to be absolutely fascinating and extremely effective for me as an instructor and for my children as students.  The PARENTS GUIDE at the beginning of the text is extremely important to read as it explains the logic and reasoning behind the program.  For geeks like me, it is also mesmerizing.

The DISTAR method (Direct Instruction System for Teaching Arithmetic and Reading) is a very methodical teaching program.  It has been shown to be an extremely effective and simple tool to help struggling readers.  This methodology was used to develop the 100 Easy Lessons program written by Siegfried Engelmann over 40 years ago.

Modified Alphabet System

The system uses a modified orthography system (fancy way to say the alphabet symbols used to represent speech sounds).  This alphabet provides visual clues to indicate which sound is associated with the letter as it is used in a printed word.

For example, the letter symbol “e” is modified slightly depending upon its positioning and therefore, its use in a word.

  • The “e” in “led” is says the short e sound.
  • The “e” in “like” is silent and therefore has no sound.  It is therefore shown in a smaller text size in order to cue the student to it’s silent role in the word.
  • The “e” in she is long and says its name (which is noted with the macron above the “e”.)

The smaller size of the “e” indicates the “silent e.”    All silent letters are initially introduced in a smaller font to point out that the letter symbol makes no sound.

In the initial lessons of the book, the modified alphabet are used as a scaffolding technique (extra supports to help the learner).   These visual cues are extremely helpful for children with special learning needs.

They are gradually removed as the child begins to fluently recognize (whether consciously or not) the letter patterns and sounds.   The logic is that as the modified letter symbols are gradually dropped, the student is able seamlessly transition to reading and decoding using traditional letter symbols.  The child’s brain has incorporated the letter patterns and their usage and no longer needs the extra visual cues.

Mom-Friendly Teaching

100 Easy Lessons uses scripted step-by-step instructions for the teacher.  This may seem to be stifling to the teacher.  However, the scripting is one of the many reasons that instructional tool is effective for kids with special learning needs.

The modeling provided using the script, is verbalized aloud to the student.  The letter sounds and words are easily repeated by the child.  The child follows the visual text both with his eyes and his pointer finger.  Quick progress and smaller incremental goals are achieved which is ecouraging to child and teacher.

Minimalism Limits Distractions

The 100 Easy Lessons pages are very minimalistic with no pictures and very little color.

On the surface the text may appear dry and boring.  Again this is one reason why the system is so effective for children with special learning needs.     Highly distractible children tend to become overly stimulated with lots of visual input .

These students are set up for success.  The eyes are focused on the text only.  The text does not have to compete with the visual input of  illustrations.  (This is not to say that illustrations are not of extreme value.  They are so incredibly valuable.)

The goal is to teach students the basics of reading (phonemic awareness, decoding skills and growing fluency skills).  Therefore, limited visual input is a benefit during specific and direct instruction.  Once the basics of reading have been mastered and the child requires less mental effort to decode words, the addition of illustrations to books is less of an issue.

Minimal Time Commitment

The lessons are extremely short (no more than 20 minutes a day).   The lower time commitment makes learning to read very manageable for both the child and teacher.  When I used this system with both of my girls, I often broke up the lessons into 10-minute sessions.  I would break up the lesson into a short 10-minute session in the morning and a 10-minute session before lunch.

The point is that this book can be modified to fit the mental capability of the student.  If the student is older the student may be capable of more than one lesson per day.

Regardless, I highly recommend modifying ANY curriculum into smaller chunks of time when necessary.  I especially receommend  shorter lessons with your younger children and any child who struggles with executive functioning.

Short but consistent lessons over time is so effective.  Forcing longer lessons is more likely to lead to a resistant and frustrated student.  That leads to a dead end.  A child’s level of interest and motivation is one of your greatest weapons when teaching your child any subject area.

Please save yourself from the mistake of “forcing” your student to work through longer lessons when they clearly have reached their limit.

This will only create more resistance to engage when it is time for your next lesson.  A frustrated child leads to a frustrating teaching time.  Frustration within the brain of a child only leads to mental shut down.  Forced instruction when a child is mentally shut down is a certain guarantee that nothing taught is retained.  It is not worth it.  Trust me.  I have made that mistake.

Unfortunately, in our culture, we have believed a lie that says more is better.

This is not always the case.  I argue that longer lessons are definitely not effective with students who struggle with learning differences.   When learning a non-preferred subject area, I always recommend shorter and manageable lessons.

Additionally, I highly recommend reducing anxiety in your child by preparing them IN ADVANCE for what is expected.  Before your lesson, clearly tell your student your expectation of reading time over the next 10, 15, or 20 minutes.  Time length should be based on child’s capacity at that time.  If a child knows what to expect and when to expect an end point, success is more likely.

Whatever you do.  Follow through on your end time.  If you set the expectation that you are asking for 10, 15 or 20 minutes, stop at 10, 15, or 20 minutes.  Be a trustworthy coach to your student and cooperation is more likely to follow.

Final Recommendations

Overall, I highly recommend Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons for the beginning reader as well as for older students who are struggling with traditional phonics-based lessons.

As mentioned earlier,  the lack of  illustrations usually targeted to a younger audience is removed which reduces the older student’s potential feelings of embarrassment and shame  when using introductory level reading instruction.

Additionally, the book can be modified for older remedial students in that more than one lesson can be addressed each day if appropriate.

The scripted lessons, while some may intitially find stifling, are so helpful for the homeschooling mom or dad who may be nervous about his or her lack of reading instruction experience.  The book can also be used by parents wanting to supplement reading instruction over summer vacation.

Bottom line… Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons is very user-friendly, requires no prep time for the instructor, is extremely well-priced (around $16), and is extremely effective for a multitude of students.

Don’t Forget… Every Child is Unique

I will say it once, and I will continue to repeat myself… Forgive me.

Children are not all the same.  Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons using the DISTAR teaching method has been proven extremely effective with many children.  However, it may not be a fit for you or your student for one reason or another.

My goal is to bring to the forefront a variety of teaching tools and methods that can be implemented depending upon your child’s wiring.  Check out this post on the Orton-Gillingham method of reading instruction which has shown incredibly helpful for children who may have dyslexia.  

Praise the Lord for options as we educate our children.  They are a gift but they are many.  

What about you and your student?  What areas of reading skills does your student struggle in?  Phonemic awareness?  Decoding skills?  Fluency?  Reading Comprehension?  Send me your concerns and I will do my best to address them in the coming weeks.  I really want to hear from you.  Please reach out.  🙂 lindsay at a heartforallstudents dot com  

You’ve got this, Teaching Mom!

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Dyslexia & Orton-Gillingham

Dyslexia & Orton-Gillingham

Orton-Gillingham & Struggling Readers In Your Homeschool

Today we are discussing struggling readers, dyslexia, and the Orton-Gillingham approach to reading instruction.

We are blessed to have a guest post written by Karee Atkinson, a mom with a heart to equip children to learn well.  She is also a certified Orton-Gillingham tutor and is just one of several dyslexics in her family.

Take it away, Karee!!!

dyslexia, orton-gillingham reading instruction method, homeschool reading curriculum

Orton-Gillingham, Dyslexia & A Mom Who “Gets It”

As a mom of kiddos with dyslexia, and as an adult with dyslexia myself, I “get it.”  There is so much contradictory information regarding how to teach struggling readers.  It can be so overwhelming. 

So let me start with my three guiding principles for struggling readers.

1.    This is my child.   

I believe this child was sent to me.  My husband and I have the most concern, love and hope invested in this little one.  I welcome and need the input of other partners in this process like tutors, teachers and friends.  But at the end of the day, this is my child.

2.    There is no “one” solution for every child.

Every child is different.  If you find a solution that works for you, great!  And celebrate when someone else finds a solution, even if it is different from yours.

3.    To help any child improve in reading, focus on building self-confidence.  

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The Orton-Gillingham Approach For Dyslexia

The Orton-Gillingham method helps those with dyslexia beautifully.  While Orton-Gillingham was created to meet the needs of students with dyslexia, this approach can help all struggling readers.  

Let’s review some of the lingo around reading.   

Phonological Awareness & Dyslexia

Phonological awareness refers to the ability to manipulate sounds.  A deficit in phonological awareness is one of the two main deficits associated with dyslexia. 

Related Post: How To Help A Struggling Reader 

The book Equipped for Reading Success by Dr. Kilpatrick is Karee’s favorite resource for phonological awareness.

It gives you tests and interventions for phonological awareness.

Karee says,

I cannot stress enough how much struggling readers of all ages need phonological awareness activities from either a tutor, teacher or a parent! 

Dyslexia Resource Library

Knowledge of the Alphabet & Sounds 

The next thing OG is going to explicitly address is knowledge of the alphabet and the sounds the different letters make.   If you have a struggling reader, chances are they are not firm on the letter sounds.  Letter sounds need to be explicitly taught. 

  • For example the word “Wasp” is not pronounced /w/ /a/ /s/ /p/ because the “wa” makes a /w/ /o/ sound.

Orton-Gillingham: Spelling rules and phonics 

It’s easy to see the need for this type of instruction for any beginning or struggling reader.   Understanding these additional reading variables greatly assists with reading instruction.  

  • Knowledge of syllable division/syllable types 
  • Morphology
  • Syntax
  • Semantics
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Syllablle Division

Syllable division and morphology are Karee’s favorite things to teach.   

If you have a reader who has leveled out at a 3rd to 5th grade level, struggles with these 2 principles are probably part of the problem. 

I didn’t understand how to spell many words until I received this training as an adult.  

Speaking to her own dyslexia diagnosis,

I have always been a strong reader, but my spelling and grammar is still weak.   Weak spelling and grammar skills are hallmark characteristics of an adult with dyslexia.  Honestly, once I was trained in OG, I became a bit frustrated that I hadn’t learned this earlier.  

dyslexia, orton-gillingham reading instruction method, homeschool reading curriculum

Orton-Gillingham, Dyslexia & Morphology

Morphology is also a key component that adds meaning to the way words are spelled.  It’s just a fancy term to describe how suffixes and prefixes change a word.  Think metamorphosis… the changing caterpillar and butterfly.

Another fantastic way to add meaning to how words are spelled is structured word inquiry.   Check out this great video about this new and growing field.  Structured Word Inquiry.

Homeschooling with Dyslexia

Foundational Reading Skills: Syntax & Semantics

Syntax and semantics are the two final components of the Orton-Gillingham approach.  These help us understand how to get meaning from written language. 

You may be asking yourself the following question:

Don’t most reading programs have some of these elements? If so, then why is Orton-Gillingham so much more effective?   

Yes!  Many programs do contain similar components. However, if reading supports don’t contain ALL of these components, please don’t use them!! 

A strong reading program should have all these elements.  To learn how to tease out root issues of reading struggles, check out this post.  

Logic of English Tree

What Makes Orton-Gillingham Effective for Dyslexia?

The Orton-Gillingham approach is effective for dyslexia because of the way it presents the information.

It uses a multisensory and learner-driven approach.  Additionally, OG teachers and tutors are trained to be laser-focused on the specific needs of the student.

1.  Success is achievable with Orton-Gillingham

If I am doing my job as a tutor, a child should always find success in our lessons.  Orton-Gillingham lessons are hand-crafted to meet the needs of that student.

They are also very, very explicit in teaching how letters, sounds, syllables and morphemes all work together. 

Each lesson should circle back to previously learned material.  A student should never encounter a letter combination or spelling rule they have not been taught in any of the review segments of the lesson. 

2.  Paced for the Specific Student

Lessons are paced to the student’s masteryWe do not move on until the new information is mastered and the student is successful.

3.   Diagnostic

OG lessons are diagnostic.   This means that if a child is struggling with a concept or a word, we loop back to that again. 

If I see a strength in the way the way a student grasps new information, we use that learning strength in all future lessons.

Ultimately, the Orton-Gillingham approach is systematic, cumulative, explicit, multisensory and diagnostic.  And most important of all, it is focused on the success of the inidividual student.

Auditory Processing Disorder: 10 Ways to Help Your Child

Family History of Dyslexia & Parent Tools to Support Their Students

Dyslexia runs in families and my family is no exception.  We have an official diagnosis of dyslexia for three of my children.

I’ve navigated dyslexia in many ways personally in my own schooling and as a parent supporting my children.

Eventually, when I realized that all of my kids would need reading tutoring, I decided to tutor them myself.   The cost for three dyslexic children to receive effective reading support, I had no other choice. 

If you are do end up supporting your own kids without formal OG training, I strongly suggest the programs Sonday System, Barton, or Reading Horizons.  

RELATED POST:  2020 Best Homeschool Curriculum Choices Chosen By Veteran Homeschool Moms- Language Arts Edition

Dyslexia Resource Library

Struggling Students Need Adults To Believe In Them

Most importantly, believe in your child.  Their future is not limited in any way if they believe in themselves.  

RELATED POST: 7 Homeschool Tips For Beginners

Remember, you are the parent and this is your child.  There are days we all feel fear and are just overwhelmed. 

At the end of every day though, your love for your child will help you find the path they need to be successful.   Always make sure that your children spend time building upon their strengths and not just facing down their weaknesses.  

Orton-Gillingham, Dyslexia: Every Child Can Learn To Read

A big thank you to Karee for lending her expertise in the Orton-Gillingham method of reading instruction.  More than anything else in her post, what speaks to me most as a mom, educator and lover of kids, is this.  Her heartbeat for the success of every child.  

You may or may not know the mission of AHFAS.   

Here it is:  To equip moms to empower outside-the-box thinking kids to thrive as exactly who God has created them to be.  

When a child is equipped based on who they are and how they are wired, they will thrive with confidence and purpose.  

Join us in AHFAS Private community for more support.   Together, one mom at a time, we can change the narrative for kids with ADHD, ASD, SPD, Dyslexia or no acronym at all.    We’re in this together!

Logic of English Tree

Karee received a B.A. in Political Science from Brigham Young University and a Master’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Utah.  Karee worked as a lobbyist for the American Federation of Teachers and as a trainer for the Utah State Department of Health, before deciding to be a stay at home mom.   Karee was a founding member of Decoding Dyslexia Utah.  Karee now lives in South Carolina with her tribe of dyslexics including herself, her husband, one son and three daughters.  

To contact Karee about her services: or  call her at 801-455-2402

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Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you do end up purchasing any of the recommended items through this link, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you. I appreciate your support.