Some kids whiz through the process of learning to read. They go from sounds, to letters to sight words to reading whole sentences with remarkable ease, almost as if reading was just part of their DNA.  For other kids, reading – as Beatles musician Ringo Star says in his lyrics – “It Don’t Come Easy.”

As adults, we might not recall – even in the farthest recesses of our minds – that at one time we did not know what those strange squiggles on the page meant — those squiggles that eventually turned into letters and words, then morphed into sentences, literally right before our eyes.   And one day – all of a sudden – you could read.

It was as if some magical button somewhere had been pushed.   And you started reading everything – often out loud – from simple books, to street signs to billboards to food labels; and perhaps sometimes to your parents’ or siblings’ chagrin, there seemed to be no off button to this newly-realized skill of yours.  Plus, you discovered if you couldn’t read a word at first, you had the tools to sound it out.

What a gift! There is such joy in learning to read and mastering those letters and sentences as all those pieces come together. Reading lights the journey of fun, knowledge and understanding.  Reading simply put; it’s for life.

But for some kids – perhaps one you know – reading is a struggle. They seem to always feel behind and are frustrated with the whole “reading thing”.  They go from loving the thought and experience of reading and you sitting close and reading their favorite books to avoiding books altogether.

Sometimes that shift is subtle – simple avoidance – and sometimes it comes with a scowl or a flat out refusal to read anything. Regardless of the technique, once you notice a shift  – going from being delighted with reading to complete disinterest in their most special books – a child is most likely having issues, but is not able to articulate the problem.  So what’s a parent to do?  First, don’t wait and hope it will improve on its own; it probably won’t.  Look for signs and behaviors that might indicate reading difficulties, and take steps from there…Here is a short list to indicate there might be a problem and what you can do to help.

Early Signs:

    • Having difficulty with rhyming words
    • Challenging to remember sight words or what they read
    • Struggling to remember letter sounds
    • Confusing similar letters – example: b and d
    • Omitting word endings – ing, or ed

Behavior Changes:

    • Digging in their heels – refusing to read
    • Faking you out – pretending to read, but not really
    • Telling you reading is “stupid”
    • Too busy to read – saying they’ll do it later
    • Saying reading is boring, when they used to love it

If you see these changes, consider the following – the sooner the better:

    • Take them for an eye test
    • Engage the help of a teacher
    • Encourage them to read and the love of books
    • Keep reading to them every day
    • Bob is Your Friend – Invest in Bob Books

This last item – Investing in Bob Books – can be wonderfully helpful for reading and self-esteem for your young reader.  If you are not familiar with Bob Books, check them out.  Here is a link to the Bob Books website They have been around for 40 years and are considered among the top books for helping young readers.

There is no set answer why some kids struggle to read, but there is usually a reason, and once you determine what that might be, and they find success once again, those books that might be momentarily languishing on their book shelf will once again bring smiles to their faces and magic to their life.

“Oh, magic hour, when a child first knows she can read printed words!”
                    – Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn



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