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Target the Problem!

Understand the problems a child may be having with reading, and target what you can do to help!

Look inside for practical, research-based information for parents and teachers about:

  • Problems involving phonological and phonemic awareness
  • Word decoding and phonics
  • Vocabulary
  • Fluency
  • Comprehension
  • Other sources of reading difficulty

Things to be aware of

There are many reasons why reading can be hard. This handout describes the five components of reading and difficulties that kids experience within each area. We hope this tool helps you become aware of specific areas in which a child is having trouble and begin targeting ways to help.

It’s important to note that struggling readers will often have problems in multiple areas. For example, children who have problems with phonemic awareness almost always have problems in word decoding and phonics.

The key thing is, don’t hesitate when you suspect a child has a reading difficulty. Trust your judgment and consider how a child does in comparison with other students. Parents play a huge role in making sure that their child’s needs are being addressed by the school. Some kids end up being diagnosed with a learning disability. There is an even larger group of students, though, who never receive a diagnosis but who nonetheless need targeted assistance to learn and read well. Because you care the most about your child, you need to understand your child’s needs and advocate for him or her. A thorough reading evaluation can help determine a child’s reading difficulties. Talk to the school about getting an assessment done for your child.

We hope you’ll use this information as a starting point! The best thing that can happen is for parents, teachers, and other professionals to begin working together to help a child strengthen the skills that are so crucial to learning to read.

The Fine Print

Please note that “Target the Problem!” is not intended to replace the expertise of trained professionals such as educational diagnosticians, school psychologists, special educators, or general educators in either diagnosing or instructing children who may have reading disabilities. “Target the Problem!” is also not intended to be exhaustive in scope. Please use the information provided in conjunction with information you may glean from other resources and people.

For more information:

Feel free to photocopy and distribute this information if appropriate credit is given to Reading Rockets, The Access Center, and LD OnLine.

Reading Rockets Logo, The Access Center Logo, and LD Online Logo.

The Access Center and Reading Rockets are funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.

The following individuals contributed to the development of this material: Dr. Kathryn Drummond, Dr. Claudia Edmondson, Dr. Joanne Meier, Dr. Kathleen Ross-Kidder, and Dr. Judy Shanley.

We are grateful to the following individuals for their careful review: Dr. Lynn Fuchs, Dr. Louisa Moats, Dr. Annemarie Palincsar, Dr. Terry Salinger, Dr. Louise Spear-Swerling, and Dr. Joanna Williams.

Please let us know how you are using this tool or if you have any comments or suggestions regarding it.