How Can I Help My K-2 Struggling Reader at Home?


a family reading and helping a struggling reader

Many parents have reached out to us with the question of, “How can I help my struggling reader at home?” You have probably heard ad infinitum, ‘be sure to read to your child.’ Reading to your child is lovely AND necessary for so many reasons. But, that’s a different topic. If you are reading this post, you have probably made trips to the library and reading bedtime stories a common occurrence. You want to know what MORE you can do, because the practices you are currently engaging in just aren’t helping your child close the reading gap. Take heart. There are a lot of short, fun activities that parents can implement at home to strengthen the various components of structured literacy.

What is your K-2 struggling reader having trouble with?

Without data it would be impossible to identify what is causing the specific deficit with your child. First, get your child’s vision and hearing checked in order to rule out any physical concerns. Then be sure to reach out to the classroom teacher because you want to confirm whether your child is struggling with the code of reading (phonics). If so, they will need to strengthen their phonemic awareness, phonics, and fluency. It is important to note that often problems with comprehension stem from deficits with decoding.

What are some phonemic awareness activities that I can do at home with my child?

Phonemic Awareness is an oral language activity that does not involve print. The ability to hear, identify, and manipulate sounds in words is a critical building block of reading. This oral language play is one of the most important things a parent can do to help lay the foundation for successful reading.

The ability to rhyme is a precursor to reading and spelling words that belong to the same word family (dog, hog, log). The beginning part (the onset) changes but the rime (everything from the vowel back) stays the same. Young children love to rhyme especially when it involves silly words. Here are a few of our favorite activities:

  1. I Spy – Say, “I spy with my little eye something that rhymes with knock.” Your child can look around the room, spy the clock, and say, “CLOCK!” You say, “That’s right. Knock and clock rhyme.” If your child says something like, “knob”, then correct them by saying, “Knock and knob start with the same sound /n/. Listen /nnnnnn/ob/, /nnnnnn/ock/. Let’s see if we can find something in the room that ENDS with /ock/. Sometimes it’s helpful to give hints. You might say, “The thing that rhymes with knock is something you use to tell time.” Then your child can probably identify the clock. Once again, give some positive reinforcement. Say, “That’s right! Knock and clock rhyme! You got it!”
  2. Singing-We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, singing is a super fun way to get children to hear rhymes. On a long road trip or running errands about town? Pop on some kids’ music. Raffi and Peter, Paul, and Mary are two of our favorite children’s musical talents.
  3. Rhyming Memory Cut out pictures from magazines and glue them to index cards. To begin the game, review the names of the pictures. Then place the cards face-down, in rows. Player 1 flips two cards and says the name of each card. If the word rhymes then the player keeps the cards. If the words do not rhyme, the cards are placed face down. Player 2 then flips two cards and follows the same routine. Once all the cards have been matched, the players count their cards. The player with the most matching cards wins.
There’s more to phonemic awareness than rhyming.

Phonemic awareness includes the ability to hear and identify the beginning, middle, and ending sounds in words. It also includes being able to blend sounds together to make a word: /c/…/a/…/t/=cat. This is the first step toward reading. Children also need to be able to segment the sounds of a whole word into their individual parts: cat=/c/…/a/…/t/. This necessary skill helps children as they begin to spell.

We have developed a set of engaging, kid-approved games. All of the games include directions as well as a progression of skills from the easiest to the most difficult.

What are some ways that I can help my child master the alphabetic principle?

The alphabetic principle is the understanding that letters represent sounds. At this stage, print is introduced. The first thing that children must become adept at is producing the letter sound when shown a letter. Once students are able to do this, it is time for them to learn how to blend those letter sounds together. We have some very helpful videos on Youtube that demonstrate how to teach emergent readers how to blend words.

My child can read CVC words, but she has to tap the words every time. What can I do now?

Beginning readers need repeated opportunities to read and reread words, sentences, and stories that contain phonics patterns with which they are familiar. This helps to develop important neuronal pathways. As we have said, reading is a code based system so it’s essential to introduce the code sequentially.

Below is the start of a suggested sequence of instruction. Click on the element to learn more.

Closed Syllable

Consonant Digraphs in a Closed Syllable

Bonus Letters

Glued Sounds all, am, an

Glued Sounds ng, nk

Suffix -s, -es

Consonant Blends

Closed Syllable Exceptions

My child can read, but not fluently. What is the next step?

Fluency is the bridge to comprehension. We cannot say enough about repeated readings! Choose a decodable text that your child has read before, and have them read it again (and again, and again). We love a good analogy. When a basketball player wants to improve their free throw percentage, they practice the free throw shot again, and again, and again. The same holds true for fluency.

Sometimes, students need to develop their automaticity at the word level. Fluency grids are perfect for this.

Fluency Grids helps students develop automaticity at the word level.
Fluency grids are available in our TPT store.
I’m not a teacher. How can I learn more about how to support my struggling K-2 reader at home?

We highly recommend you look through this website. We strive to write posts aimed to help both parents and teachers. If you want to learn more about decodable texts, search our site. Need to know more about teaching phonemic awareness? We have posts that will provide the answers. Be sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook where we posts helpful reading tips. Whenever we have a published a new post you’ll see it on IG and/or FB first.

Where can I find affordable materials to help my struggling K-2 reader at home?

Our TPT store is chock full of materials that align with the Science of Reading. ALL of our resources come complete with detailed lesson plans. Here are a few that will aid parents in supporting their K-2 struggling reader at home.

Decodable books help students apply phonetic patterns and develop automaticity.
The Letter Name and Sound Assessments helps determine a student's mastery of this skill
We are always happy to answer any questions you might have. Just drop us a comment below (or better yet, DM us on Instagram) and we’ll get back to you!

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