6 Questions to Help Pinpoint Why You Have a Reluctant Reader

“My 7-year-old is still not reading at the level I keep thinking she needs to.”

“My 14-year-old has been taught phonics but is having a very difficult time with applying the rules to spelling words and reading is slow–he will see a difficult word and just say something. I really think that he is being a very lazy reader.”

This is a common concern, and one that is very understandable. After all, the single most important educational skill your child will learn is reading, and a student who loves to read will find he has a tremendous advantage in every area of study.

But not every child is eager to read, and when you are trying to figure out why, here are the first 6 questions we’d ask.

1. Does he need glasses?

The first question is the most obvious, how are his eyes? If he has always had blurred or double vision, he may not even be aware of it! If he has never had his eyes examined, now is the time.

2. Is memory the root struggle?

Secondly, is he mentally able for reading? Can he sequence the sounds of reading in his head? If he sounds out words flawlessly but then puts them together in a way that makes no sense IE “f” “r” “o” “g” “toad” then this may be the culprit. See how many random numbers your child can remember in a row. “4 2 6” “0 6 7 2” “9 8 5 8 4” If he cannot remember at least 4 digits, then he isn’t ready for reading yet – by the time he sounds out the last letter in a word his brain simply cannot remember the first letter he sounded out just a moment ago. You can do frequent simple drills or if you prefer, you can purchase a program to do the work for you. We recommend Brain Builder.

3. Does he really know phonics?

The third question we would ask is has he mastered phonics yet? If he runs across a word he has never seen before, does he have the tools to figure out how to read it? If not, then he needs to go back to phonics. Depending on how old he is, he may just race through Phonics Pathways, but in doing so he’ll fill in gaps in his foundation and become a competent reader for the first time. If the work seems too easy for him, consider having him read to a young sibling, neighbor or church friend. They will benefit as much as he will!

4. Is the real issue boredom?

If he is bored with reading, then it is no wonder that reading is a challenge for him. Have you considered whetting his appetite with graphic novels? Tintin is a long-standing favorite of reluctant readers nation-wide, and we have heard many men credit this series with their success as a reader. Beyond that though, pay attention to your child’s interests and find him books and magazines that will stretch and encourage him to keep reading.

5. Have you made it the priority?

Is reading your top academic priority for him? Does his school schedule reflect that? For him to invest the time it takes to become a good reader, you may need to strip away everything else from his schedule this school year, with the possible exceptions of math and thinking skills. Will it be worth it? Absolutely!

6. Is he just reading too slowly?

Perhaps he is a competent, motivated reader, who simply reads way too slowly. For that student, we would try a speed-reading program to literally bring him up to speed so that he can enjoy reading.