4 Signs of Reading Difficulty

It’s only natural for parents to wonder how a child’s reading stacks up next to the child’s peers. This is especially the case when there’s an older sibling or friend in the picture who seems to breeze through the reading process. It is not always clear whether a child has a weakness that needs to be helped, or if reading simply hasn’t yet “clicked.”


Students might avoid reading, or say they “are bad” at it, or even that they dislike it. These concerns could be related to a true reading difficulty, and there are specific reading behaviors that every parent can watch for. Check out the following 4 signs that reveal when a student needs reading help.


If you’re not certain about one of these, have your child read grade-level text aloud to you.


1. Sounding out words is difficult

Some students have difficulty sounding out new words—even those words that “play fair.” They might add or omit sounds or syllables, or read sounds out of order. For example, the word stream comes out as “steam,” or they read grater as “garter” or “grate.


2. Difficulty learning and retaining sight words

Many common words “don’t play fair” (such as find and eye and thought), so recognizing them is the only way to read them correctly. And, because these words are common, they should be recognized quickly, leading to fluent paragraph reading. A student who has difficulty may attempt to sound out common words that they’d learned already, reading people as “pee/oh/plee,” for example. Students may also do a lot of guessing (e.g., reading people as “purple”).


3. Slow and laborious passage reading

Some students may be able to sound out words but can’t put it all together on the page. These readers get mired down in sounding out every word, and they may not recognize the same word when they encounter it in the next paragraph.


Slow decoding interferes with reading comprehension; by the time readers get to the end of a passage, they have lost the big picture, or meaning. This can be especially frustrating for students who are curious and love learning.


4. Poor spelling

Some students have difficulty identifying all of the needed phonemes (optnrty for opportunity); and, some students can spell phonetically but cannot retain spelling patterns (opertunity for opportunity).


Reading Help at Lindamood-Bell

For many students, a cause of reading difficulties is weak symbol imagery—the ability to visualize letters in your mind’s eye. This connection of imagery and language is necessary for sounding out new words, and for quickly recognizing letters and common words. Students who read fluently and self-correct their errors have strong symbol imagery. Learn more about symbol imagery and solutions for reading difficulties here.


A child who seems to have trouble reading could be behind, or may, in fact, be developmentally on-target for his or her age and grade. Regardless, if you observe signs of a reading difficulty, you need to find out why. A Learning Ability Evaluation uncovers the strengths and weaknesses that affect learning. While some students come to us with a previous diagnosis, such as dyslexia, many seek our help to enhance their skills or to just make learning easier—and we do!


In this video, a Lindamood-Bell instructor describes her own daughter’s journey in learning to read to her potential. She discusses the early signs of reading difficulty, the Learning Ability Evaluation process, and her daughter’s experience receiving intensive reading instruction at the learning center.



Contact us to discuss your child’s reading and for information about our complimentary diagnostic screening for learning and our Learning Ability Evaluation, the first steps in teaching students to read to their potential: 800-300-1818.

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