How can I help my child learn to read?


Why is my child struggling to learn to read? What can I do to help them?

Every child is different and learn to do things at different rates. We all know this don’t we? Some may walk at 12 months whilst others may walk at 16 months. They may speak their first words at 9 months or they may not utter anything until they are 14 months. With this in mind, why do parents worry so much about what reading level their child is on? Why do many parents put such importance on learning to read at a very early age? Why do some parents focus on this one aspect of their child’s learning?

When it comes to a child’s first few years of school, it is easy to think that each child will learn everything they are taught. That each year, the teacher teaches the curriculum and every child retains it, ready to learn new things the following year. However, this is not the nature of learning and many parents forget this. In reality, each child will take on different aspects of what they are taught and at different rates. This will mean that some children will need more input of varying concepts at different times than others. There can also be a huge difference between a child born in September (so they have a birthday at the beginning if the school year) than in August in both their maturation and ability to learn the same concepts.

I know that parents focus on reading as it is obviously a hugely important skill but I think because it is very visible to parents, as they practise reading with their child at home, some can tend to worry more than perhaps they should.

But what can you do if you are worried about your child’s reading?

  • Firstly, don’t panic! Some children just take a little longer than others. If your child is making progress each term then that is great. Some children will suddenly make leaps with their learning whilst others move more steadily.
  • Make an appointment to see your child’s teacher. Teachers really don’t mind you going in to talk to them! That’s part of their job. Try to explain exactly what is worrying you without blame or getting upset/cross. Remember teachers want to work with parents to ensure that each child makes the progression they should.
  • Please do not compare your child to their friends.  Please do not compare your child to their friends. Please do NOT compare your child to their friends.
  • It is not a race! Each child will progress at their own pace. Do support them but don’t push them on too quickly.
  • Encourage reading at home. Set good habits by making it part of your routine. The best time I think is after tea or a bath. In that way, your child is not hungry and is relaxed. It may be that this is when you have always read them a story. This is a perfect time to add in their reading too (as long as they are not too tired). I know other parents who have 5 minutes in the morning before school (not this household!). Whatever works for you.
  • Don’t make your child read a text that is beyond their understanding. No, 6 year olds should not be reading Harry Potter! (Ok, the very, very exceptional may). I love Harry Potter but these books were written with 9/10 year old children in mind (I mean the first book). Technically your child could probably plough through Harry Potter but they also have to retain and UNDERSTAND the language used. These are two different skills. The best books are the ones they pick and this may mean “The Guinness Book of Records!”
  • Encourage the reading of everything, not just books.
  • Reading scheme books can be a bore BUT they are graded accordingly and are written with your child in mind so don’t show your child that you are bored! They probably love them!
  • And finally, if your child is still struggling here are some strategies that have worked for some of the hundreds of children I have taught.

These are my opinions and they may not be those of other educators:

  1. Most children learn by using the letter sounds e.g phonics. ALL children learn this method in the UK and that is good. As a parent, I would advise you learn these too. Many of us are from the “Peter and Jane” or “Roger Red Hat” era and didn’t learn in this way. Early readers are asked to “sound out” unknown words; this means using their letter sounds. Please do not teach them the letter names e.g a is ay.
  2. Some children learn differently and phonics occasionally don’t work (I will be criticised here!). In my 20 years experience I HAVE met children where phonics have been like wading through mud for them. As soon as I have made them words in a tin to rote learn, they have excelled. I “shape” words. This means that I draw an outline around the whole word which shows the child its shape. Some children (especially those that find maths easy) have this kind of brain. Phonics purists don’t like this but I don’t care!
  3. Try a coloured overlay. I am a trained Irlens screener. Here is the link for more information:  This is the site for my lovely friend Marie Smith. The white background on a page for some children, can make text seem to move, wobble or spiral. Just think how awful that must be! Your child may not realise that this is not what should be happening! It can make learning to read very tricky. Do look at my friends site if you want to find out more.
  4. Have you ever had your child’s eyes tested or hearing checked? Both need checking regularly. You take them to the dentist, why not the optician? My daughter had hearing difficulties when she was very young and I didn’t notice. It’s very easy to miss this! The tubes in a child’s ears are tiny and often get blocked, especially when they have a cold. This means their hearing can come and go. If you are worried, take them to see your Health visitor or doctor.
  5.  If you are still worried and your child’s teacher is also concerned, it may mean your child has a barrier to learning such as dyslexia. Your child will need to see an Educational Psychologist who will help with a diagnosis if that is what you want. Just remember, this can’t really be done before the age of 7 as children are still developing the skills they need. Also, a diagnosis doesn’t change your child; they are still the little one that you love. We know a lot more about dyslexia now so there is lots of help available.

Good luck. Please feel free to comment or contact me if you would like more information. I’m a trained teacher and although cannot diagnose things such as dyslexia, I may be able to help with tips and strategies as I have lots of experience.


Lucy At Home

Twin Mummy and Daddy
3 Little Buttons
Real Mum Reviews


  • Starting them young is a great 👍🏼 Love all the tips you listed. Also reading for them before going to bed helps a lot inmaking them interested in books 😊

  • This post made a lot of sense to me. I think teaching has taken a very big turn in the US. Now the focus is on testing! I think there is very little teaching to it. In our local schools every child is assigned a computer to take home from 1st grade on. Everything is done on this computer! There is very little child/teacher interaction. If the child asks questions he is referred to a computer teaching skill. Even the conferences or consultations with the parents is done through texts with the parents on the computer. The parents have access to see if homework assignments are completed, test scores, evaluations, etc. Don’t get me started on the way Math is taught now. You would need a full sheet of paper to correctly divide 36 by 9!
    Every child is expected to be at a given level by x amount of time. And the common denominator “Y” is set too high for some and too low for others. The end of year core curriculum test is over 6 hours in length.
    I remember, way back in the days, when my youngest was having trouble with potty training. My friend took me aside and whispered, “you know by the time she goes to college she’ll have this mastered, right?” It made me think. It was me who was stressing over this and she was not ready. After I settled down, she moved right along, no problem. I think we have two kinds of children growing up now. The ones that are constantly pushed to excel by their parents and the ones who don’t have parents that care one way or the other and believe everything they learn should be taught in school.
    AND I think it is very important to have their eyes checked way beyond grammar school. I think many teens need glasses, but they don’t want to wear them or can’t afford glasses.

      What an amazing comment! In the Uk it is very test based too and schools are really struggling with lack of funding which is increasing class sizes. There is a lot of teaching interaction however; your system sounds dreadful! I went to the US as part of my uni course and was surprised to see teachers not being able to move state, they had to retake their teaching certificate! That sounds crazy. We have a national curriculum but goal posts have changed hugely since I started teaching for teachers and pupils. Im not sure I would go into teaching now if I was 20 but I love teaching and I will keep striving to help and nurture little children until they wheel me out of schools! You are right about the different types of children, sadly many parents expect too much of them. x

      • Many, many children go to private schools or are home schooled here. There was a big special on TV last night about the 14 yo that just graduated for college with a degree in Physics. His eleven yo brother just graduated from high school and will be going on to college as well. Both were home schooled by their mother! Exception to the rule, I know but the mother would not send them to public school!

      • I am not a teacher, I am a RN. However, I taught English as a second language to new students, who come here and are integrated immediately into our classes and have problems because their English language skills are not up to par. It was an eye opener for me! I don’t know how they manage! Well, they don’t unless their parents are making the extra effort to get them help and are working with them. However, most of the parents spoke no English!

        • But I bet you can see things from a medical perspective and I think mental health issues are rising all the time in schools. With all the testing, I wonder why?!?

          • The schools are required to meet (across the board standards) now and the focus is on a national curriculum rather than a local school board’s decision on what the parents of their district think is important. In the national curriculum there is a lot of focus on social issues and not on the basics; reading, writing, language, math and the parents have been quite upset. Mental health issues are not being addressed in the schools or in the medical field either. AND most parents don’t want mental health issues addressed in school due to the stigma it places on their children in the school system and it also may draw attention to problems in the home as well. Which brings in social services, loss of aid, etc……

          • It sounds like there are quite similar issues going on over the pond to us! Hoo Hum not sure what to say….I just hope that things change but I don’t expect they will!

  • Some great tips here. Reading is a big part of our lives, and I’m excited about my youngest starting school and learning to read. But I know every child is different and although his brother picked it up easily there’s no saying that will be the case for my youngest, so these are good things to keep in mind.

  • Fantastic post which raises some great points. It’s especially important to remember that every child is different.

  • Thanks for all of the tips and suggestions! I think learning to read is very important, but agree with you that we shouldn’t push it on them and realize children will learn at their own pace and stuff will (most likely) click when they are ready. I sometimes worry if my 4 1/2 year old should know more of the alphabet, but I keep reminding myself she will learn it all when she’s ready. (Don’t get me wrong. She does know some letters. 😉 ) She seems to be more interested in math and numbers, but she IS finally showing an interest in learning the alphabet finally as of lately! Stopping by from the Fab Friday link up.

  • Thanks for such an informative blog post. Cygnet is just coming up to three years old. I read to him a lot, and he is just pointing out letters. You are right that every child develops at a different rate. Pen x #thatfridaylinky

  • N was one of those who just wasn’t fussed about learning to read (or write) in reception. He just wanted to play. But he’s really good at learning precisely what is taught whether in school or sport lessons. So his phonics are spot on, and miraculously over the summer before year 1, he obviously developed enough that in September he could all of a sudden read the books he was struggling with in the summer term, fluently.
    So much of it is waiting for them to be ready. He’s doing really well now, although I struggle to get him to do his homework reading. And he won’t read any books out of school even though he loves the books we read for bedtime and I know if he tried he’d be able to read them..
    I’d also add, getting them to read to someone else. N loves other people listening to him read – his uncle, Granny etc. His dad doesn’t do anything with him and that annoys me because it’s so key for boys, but it doesn’t seem to worry him too much at the moment.

    • That’s great news! Yes, some children will suddenly take off and you know all your hard work has paid off! Shame about his dad but I get your point about having others to read to…..also older children. Little ones love to read to older siblings or cousins. Thank you for commenting. 😍

  • I’ve got 2 past the age of learning to read and 1 that’s getting there… excellent tips here!

  • Really good tips – particularly about checking eyes and ears. With my eye issues, we were monitoring little M’s and still didn’t spot any problems until we arranged an early private eye test, so its not always obvious! #ThatFridayLinky

  • Thank you very much for this informative post. My boy has no problem with Maths at all. In fact he is rather good at it. He has to work double hard with phonics on the reading skills. I have dyslexia – so perhaps, it runs from me? Thank you for linking up with us on #FabFridayPost

  • My son has recently turned 3 and I know that nursery are starting phonics with them. I’m determined not to worry too much about his reading progress though – I stressed an awful lot about his speech for such a long time, and although I would say he’s still a little bit behind his peers, he’s getting there all the time and it does neither of us any good to worry about it. I’m sure his reading will follow a similar learning curve, and that’s fine – I’m confident he’ll get there in the end. Thanks for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

  • Reading is so important start them young my twins love reading Thanks for linking to the #THAT FRIDAY LINKY come back next week please

  • This is amazing and so very useful. My boy is starting school in September and will only just need 4, I am a bit nervous about how he’s going to cope being a baby of the class. Can I just ask a quick question about phonics as I don’t really understand it all. If I was trying to get my boy to read the word pirate, for example, do I say it out to him like puh eye rate..or say each letter like ‘p’ ‘ih’ ‘rr’ ‘ahh’ ‘tuh’ ‘eh”? I don’t know if that makes sense but when I was taught to read it wasn’t with phonics for sure as all the books on it confuse me. Thanks for this useful post xx #BlogCrush

    • Hello Wendy, You would break down the word into it’s simplest form. Like cat would be “c” “a” “t” try not to say “cuh” or “tuh” as the child can then hear an “u” in the word. I hope that makes sense! I expect your son’s school will have an info evening. Or you can google Jolly Phonics. Its a few years old now but I still think its one of the better schemes. Contact me anytime. x

  • Great post with terrific suggestions. I also think modelling is very important. If you have lots of books at home in every room and your kids see you enjoying reading, they are very likely to become keen readers as well!

  • My daughter started school in September and she had only turned 4 a few weeks before. I constantly remind myself that she is the youngest in her class and she is doing amazing. Her teacher says she is where she needs to be and that is good enough for me. Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

  • I agree with this reading should be first for fun, my eldest read really early and I think thats because she just loved it and books were always fun, even if my eldest doesn’t read as early it doesnt matter as long as it is never really a chore #Sharingthebloglove

  • I think that due to me teaching myself to read (just call me matilda) has given me the patience to help others. I also helped teach a few friends when I was little and also helped in secondary school for those younger and not able to read well.
    Im really looking forward to getting the biff, chip and kipper books out when Ben is older!! #sharingthebloglove

    • Are you a teacher? perhaps you should be if not? 🙂 I love Biff and Chip even though I could possibly recite them word for word!

  • Wow what great advice! My daughter is in reception so working her way through the Biff and Chip books and I find it quite frustrating at times, I really lack patience! I will take your advice on board! #dreamteam

  • So many fab reading tips, and thank you for the tip about reading outside! I can’t believe that we haven’t ever sat in the garden to read. It’s top of my list to do tomorrow. I completely agree that everyone goes at their own pace, and the key is to show how much you are enjoying reading with your little one. Enthusiasm is so infectious! #DreamTeam xx

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.