Reading Skills

Why is my child having trouble with reading?

When looking at our child’s skills, we will commonly be puzzled to why they are having so much trouble completing a task that we take for granted. The role of a speech pathologist is to break down the smaller steps that are required for your child to be successful in completing a skill such as reading and spelling.

Reading is actually really complicated and requires a huge number of smaller skills to be developed first. These skills include (but are not limited to):

  • Phonological Awareness Skills (refer to our post here)
  • Sequencing (knowing what is the beginning, middle, and end)
  • Letter-sound knowledge
  • Understanding of word spelling rules (e.g. bossy ‘e’ rule)
  • Comprehension of what is being read
  • Ability to track words with eyes
  • Sustained attention

Is there anything I can do at home to support?

Read, read, read – Reading to your child is the one thing that has the biggest impact on your child’s ability to learn to read. When you start reading to your child at an early age, your child grows up with reading as an enjoyable part of their daily routine. Have your child hold the book, flip the pages, and track words with their finger to support their understanding of structures of books and words in sentences. Mem Fox, author and educator, believes that children need to hear 1000 books before they begin to read themselves. This is easy if you begin when your child is a baby, but much harder if you wait until they begin school.

Practise sequencing – Following patterns can support your child’s development in learning that words are made up of different patterns. Making patterns with coloured buttons or beads can help support your child’s understanding of order of letters in words.

Engage in alphabet learning – to help develop your child’s letter-sound knowledge (e.g. ‘g’ – name is “gee” and sound is “guh” with visual support of letter). You can sing the alphabet song, add actions to letter sounds to help the child remember it, or check out Jolly Phonics for interactive videos to help support with alphabet development at

Talk about and point out words and letters – You can support your child’s early reading development by looking at words around you and talking about them. Count the letters in words and talk about long and short words. Cut letters out of magazines and paste them. Make your own alphabet book. Find the letter your child’s name starts with anywhere you can. Look at common words and see if you can find them on the pages of a book. Show your child that a word such as “the” has the same letters each time you find it and look for it in different places.

How can a speech pathologist support these skills?

It is common that families and teachers will identify concerns with specific skills such as early literacy development. Speech pathologists are trained to analyse your child’s current skills and difficulties to identify smaller goals your child will need to achieve as stepping stones towards achieving a larger goal, such as reading and spelling. As every child is different, the skills that one child needs support in, is likely to be different to another child. Hence a thorough assessment is always the place to start. Supports for working towards developing early literacy skills may include, but are not limited to:

  • Identifying if any of the above skills are lacking through the assessment process
  • Identifying if reading difficulties are linked to underlying overall language difficulties
  • Developing skills through fun and creative play-based activities
  • Supporting parents to develop their child’s skills at home, at school and in the community

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