What Should Parents of Struggling Readers Do First?


In my last post, I listed the things parents and caretakers can do for their struggling readers. The three things I recommend you get started with now are:

  • Requesting a free evaluation from your school district
  • Finding out whether your school is using an evidence-based reading curriculum
  • Teaching your child to read using an evidence-based method, or hiring a tutor to do so.

None of these are simple, so I’m adding some guidance here. Just take a deep breath and take one step at a time.

Request a free evaluation from your school district

In the U.S., the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that school districts offer such an evaluation to any child within their district who has or is suspected of having a disability that affects their ability to learn. This includes children who are homeschooled or who attend a private school. So your first step is to request an evaluation from your school district. If your child goes to a private school, you might need to request it from the district where the private school is located, but that can vary. Ask your school district for guidance.

Schools have up to 60 days to respond (although some states require a shorter period), and that’s just before the testing begins. Here’s what you can do to move things along, according to Understood.org:

What can I do if the school is moving too slowly with an evaluation?


Find out whether your school is using an evidence-based curriculum

This is a tricky one. When my son was in school, I wouldn’t have known what to look for. This article by Emily Hanford is helpful, but it might be overwhelming:

What to do if your child’s school isn’t teaching reading right?

You might be wondering why schools would be using ineffective methods, especially when we’ve had the data for so long. We’ll get into that in another post, but Hanford’s article “Hard Words” offers a good overview. Many schools are changing to evidence-based curricula, but many are not. Hanford’s podcast “Sold a Story” caused a stir; that’s caused many school districts to change their curricula, but many have not. After reading “Hard Words,” consider listening to “Sold a Story.”

The time waiting for an evaluation and learning about the school’s curriculum is time when your child is still struggling with reading, thinking she’s stupid (she’s not), possibly learning methods that are ineffective and will need to be unlearned, and over time, falling behind in other classes that require reading (i.e., ALL the classes, except possibly PE).*

While you wait for results, the most important thing you can do is offer your child reading lessons that follow the research – research we’ve known about for decades.

Teach your child to read or hire a tutor

The method I use, Reading Simplified®, is highly effective and is used by many homeschoolers, but there are other excellent programs.

If you want to teach your child to read yourself, though, I would highly recommend Reading Simplified. It’s not as expensive to learn as other effective programs, and it’s a fun, streamlined program.

I want to be clear that Reading Simplified does not have an affiliate program and I do not earn any money by recommending it. I’m just a huge fan.

If you hire a tutor, choose one who uses an evidence-based curriculum. You might have been told that Orton-Gillingham is the only good choice. Orton-Gillingham is an excellent program, but other programs are just as effective, so don’t feel restricted to that one program. Struggling readers have had great success with Reading Simplified, and one Reading Simplified tutor documented the results she had with a student who did better with RS than with OG.

If you’ve taught your child to read, please let us know in the comments what methods and resources you recommend.

Thanks for reading!

Miz Jan

*This might not apply to homeschoolers. I’ve looked for research on whether children need to learn to read by Grade 2 because of brain wiring but haven’t found anything. Kids in public schools will fall behind, and that can lead to disastrous results.

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