How to Support Your Child with Reading

Developmental differences – what’s normal? 

Some kids start kindergarten reading chapter books. Some kids don’t begin to stabilize their reading skills until they are closer to 7. Others still will never fully develop fluid reading skills without intensive support. For children, reading skills don’t ‘click into place’ just because they have been surrounded by books, had consistent access to school, and loving adults who read to them. So how do you know what is developmentally appropriate? What signs should you watch for that may indicate your child may need support? 

As the saying goes, ‘hindsight is 20/20,’ and while we wait for time machines to be invented, seeking early intervention for your child’s English reading skills as soon as you notice reluctance or difficulties, is a bit like insurance. Symbols Multisensory Learning Centers can help to stabilize pre-reading and reading skills as early as 4 or 5 years old. Providing your child with support as soon as gaps present, and before confidence is affected, is the best choice to ensure literacy skills progress steadily, children maintain an excited willingness to learn more by seeing and experiencing their success engaging in reading tasks, and can optimize their educational experiences at school. 

By the end of GR 3 children should be well on their way to developing proficient reading skills with increasing independence, fluidity and enjoyment. From kindergarten to GR 3, students are learning to develop their ability to decode printed language. For upper elementary grades, GR 4-GR 7 and beyond, students are expected to bring reading proficiency to their tasks and are now reading to learn. No matter where your child is in this continuum of development with their skills, if they are struggling, intervention should be given and Symbols Multisensory Learning Centers can help. 

Signs your child may need help 

  1. They resist or avoid reading practice (even when assisted). 
  2. They have a physical reaction to reading activities, are squirmy, or unreasonably emotional and are easily-frustrated. 
  3. They may be unable to remember how to read a word you just helped them with a few moments ago (it’s like it’s a new word all over again). 
  4. They are below average compared to their peers. 
  5. They love to be read-to, but show little interest in reading themselves.
  6. They otherwise are a very capable – there is an stark difference between this and anything reading-centered.

Keep reading to learn more about how one-to-one online or in-person instruction at Symbols Multisensory Learning Centers can help your child stabilize their early literacy skills, or strengthen their reading abilities further to meet their specific grade level expectations, and ultimately foster a life-long love for literacy.

My child is really struggling with reading.

Experts recommend early intervention as soon as struggles are seen and specifically before your child becomes a reluctant or struggling reader. With early intervention, students who may not have a learning difference, but who are slower to grasp reading skills initially, and those who later may be diagnosed with learning disabilities, are both provided with the most optimal scenario to stabilize their decoding skills and lessen the impact of losing out on reading practice. But what if your child is past that point? Maybe your child is in GR 2, Gr 3, or even struggling with basic decoding and is at the end of GR 5. What are the best steps to help these children? 

The human brain is primed for speech development, but… the reading brain is different! Developing literacy skills is not an innate process we simply ‘pick up’. Kids need to be taught how to read and while some learn this skill seemingly effortlessly, others will never reach their full potential in this skill area without explicit instruction. For them, without explicit instruction in this area, learning to read feels and is, nearly impossible. 

At Symbols Multisensory Learning Centers, we take a speech-to-print approach which is developmentally aligned with how literacy skills are acquired. We speak first, then read. This is a learner-centered approach. Supporting areas like early phonological awareness 

skills ensures students develop an ability to accurately identify all spoken sounds within a heard word. Also known as segmenting, this skill sets students up to be able to achieve higher and more advanced areas of phonological awareness skill, like manipulating and comparing sounds present within words. Understanding how letter sounds and symbols work together to produce words is at the heart of learning to read. 

Quick Tips to Help Your Child Read! 

Name it! Switch it! 

While driving in the car, look around and call out something you see, isolate the first sound in that word. 

eg. “tree”, “/t/”, now have your child name something else that starts with “/t/” 

Count & Clap! 

Ask your child for a topic of their choice. Call out words related to that topic of interest, count while you clap the syllables in each word. 

eg. (topic: soccer) say: “goalie”, they repeat, “goalie” and then, “goal-ie, 2 syllables!” 

Stretch-it & Snap-it! 

Say a word slowly, stretching all the sounds out, holding each for longer than would be typical. Have your child ‘snap it’ or say it quickly to make the real word. eg. “mmmmmmmmmuuuuuuuuuunnnnnnnnnnnnch”, they say, “munch” 

At Symbols Multisensory Learning Centers, students are taught explicitly through multi-modal practice to connect known sounds to the symbols that represent them in print. They practice visual drills, auditory drills, using continuous blending strategies to form fluidly read real and non-real words, one at a time. 

Never Suggest Guessing! 

When stuck on a word, always point to each individual letter, say the sound each represents, now make the sounds continuously and quickly to form a well-blended word. 

“mmm-aaa-p”, then “map” 

If your child struggles to arrive at ‘map’, slow it down, and try again. 

Never Use Context or Picture Clues! 

DO enjoy the artwork in books, and DO discuss it with your child. 

DO NOT use it in place of reading strategies that support understanding the written code. DO NOT say things like: ‘What word could work here?’, or ‘What animal do you see in the picture above?’. 

To support reading, always engage the letters not images or other unrelated strategies. 

For students at Symbols Multisensory Learning Centers, once fluid word reading is achieved, efforts expand to include strings of words (phrases) and eventually, complete thoughts (sentences), paragraphs, and full stories. Students practice accurate reading outloud with proper emotion, prosody and are taught how to read with an awareness for punctuation. Students learn affixes (prefixes & suffixes) and cover morphology to expand their awareness for recognizable units that may appear in new, unfamiliar words to gain insight to their meaning. 

How long should my child read each day? 

There is no magical number for how long your child should read each day. Rather than focusing on a specific amount of time, focus on the consistency of the practice and how they are reading. Read every day. 

There are two categories of reading that are important to incorporate into your child’s daily routine – especially for a child who is struggling with reading: 

Read to your child 

Read at their interest level and comprehension level, not their decoding level (which may be much lower). In other words, don’t limit the books you read to ones that fall within your child’s decoding range. Continue expanding their understanding, vocabulary and exposure to topics they are interested in by reading to them while getting structured supports to help their independent reading ability catch up through one-to-one multisensory sessions at Symbols Multisensory Learning Centers

Have your child read to you 

Ten minutes of reading, daily, can make a huge difference for your child. It’s more about the consistency of practice than the actual number of minutes read each time. Make the time special. Add a special drink or snack or use consistent, special space in your home. Include all family members or take turns participating and demonstrating that literacy time is an important family activity for everyone, not just the family member who is struggling. Avoid associating reading practice with feelings of isolation, punishment or timing daily practice to coincide other preferred activities they then miss out on.

Should my child read out loud? 

Yes! The only way you can provide support is if you know it’s needed. Whether your child needs help to read a tricky word, use correct emphasis in a multi-syllabic word, or reminders to acknowledge punctuation, supporting and correcting errors or difficulties immediately, is the best strategy to support accuracy and to ultimately encourage their understanding of what was being read. Always have your child read aloud and always read at a level your child feels successful with. Leave more challenging books for when you read to them. 

How Can I Support My Child When They Reading Aloud? 

They misread a word. 

No matter how small the error is or how insignificantly the error may seem in terms of impacting your child’s overall understanding, always address errors immediately when a mistake is made. Point to the word and while using a very gentle tone say, “What was this word, here?”. Your child is likely to respond positively to this as you are asking about the word. Not necessarily their skills. Phrasing things this way ensures the error is pointed out, is addressed, and that the interaction is set up to feel positive. Have them re-read that full sentence with the corrected word and continue. 

They are stuck on a word. 

Cover all letters except for the first letter or letters that represent the first sound in the word. Say that sound for your child. Have them repeat. Uncover the next, and repeat this process. Do this for every syllable in the word. Discuss any unknown relationships they may have not yet learned in the combinations shown in the word. Look for prefixes and suffixes. Now go back to the front of the word and continuously blend each of the sound units to form a word. Repeat the word and have your child repeat it back. Discuss what it means. Now go back to the start of the sentence and try again with this new knowledge. Support them if they struggle. 


As your child reads, discuss the meaning of specific words, discuss the content and what is being shared. How do they relate to it? Can they visualize what they are reading? Did you visualize the same thing? Ask them questions and have them ask you a question. This strategy helps to ensure what is being decoded is being understood and can help you to pinpoint areas of strength or struggle to support your child in stabilizing. 

How can I support my child when I read to them? 

Read with expression 

Listening to others who read well is the first step in building awareness of what good reading sounds like. Use expression. Give characters different voies and have fun!

Check-in while reading 

Did they hear that funny word? Can they say it back? What do they think it means in the context you read it in? What other words do they know that mean the same thing? Asking your child questions as you read ensures engagement, understanding and connection. 

Ask questions after 

What season do you think it was in the story?

How would the story be different if that problem didn’t get solved? 

They didn’t really say, but how do you think that character felt? How do you know? How did you picture that character? How did I picture them? 

What order did things happen in again? 

Focusing on recall either during the reading or after can help you to gage how well your child understood the reading, if the level is appropriate, and where you may need to support them more. 

What happens in a Symbols lesson to support reading development? 

When it comes to taking a structured, explicit, individualized, and multisensory approach to reading, not all programs are created equally. If your child is struggling with reading acquisition, simply reading more is not likely what is needed. 

Symbols Multisensory Learning Centers provides an inividualized combination of activities each lesson that target areas your child needs and that research shows should be included to support significant and lasting reading skill development. 

Here are some of the areas your child would experience in their lessons:

  • A speech-to-print focus 
  • Phonological awareness support to advanced levels 
  • Multisensory strategies to promote long-term learning and retrieval – Isolated auditory drills 
  • Isolated visual drills 
  • Blending exercises with real and non-real words 
  • Isolated word reading practice 
  • Contextual reading practice (phrases, sentences, paragraphs) 
  • A focus on learning syllable types 
  • A focus on learning prefixes and suffixes 
  • A focus on morphology 
  • Vocabulary development 
  • Comprehension development 
  • A focus on fluency 
  • Exposure to different kinds of reading styles and formats: fiction, nonfiction, etc. 

Reading acquisition happens when skills are supported explicitly and successful practice opportunities are given. We appreciate that teaching your child to read can be a complicated task. We’re experts in this area and are here to help! Click here to connect and inquire about building your child’s reading skill sets in either our in-person or online program formats to ensure every learning opportunity is as open to them as it should be, and is not limited by insufficient reading skills.

Posted in

Rob Wahl