Elementary Reading Problems: How to Help Your Child Read Better

Elementary school reading instruction focuses on word analysis, fluency and comprehension. These skills lay the foundation for successful reading in the future. If your child is struggling in any of these areas, use the following exercises at home.

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Helping Children Read Better

Word Analysis

If your child is having trouble picking out individual sounds - called phonemes - in a word, practice blending. Every word can be broken down in separate sounds, and blending the sounds together is how we figure out how to pronounce words. For instance, the word 'book' has three phonemes: b, o (the short o sound) and k.

Elementary students also learn to divide words into syllables. It can often help if you clap along while saying the word. For instance, the word 'book' has one syllable, but 'bookshelf' has two syllables. This skill will help later on when your child has to decode multisyllabic words.


Reading fluently means reading quickly with accuracy and expression. Fluency is an important part of learning to read because when your child doesn't have to focus on decoding each individual word, then he or she can concentrate on the content. To improve your child's fluency, practice reading age-appropriate books.

First, read the story aloud to your child. Then, pick a passage and model what fluent reading sounds like. Have your child read the same passage aloud. Keep practicing until she's reading with expression and self-correcting mistakes. Your child may have to read the same passage a few times before it sounds fluent.


To help your child understand the plot of a story, it can help if he makes a personal connection with the main character. After reading a story together, ask him what he would have done in a situation in the story. Alternatively, you could act out the characters' lines while you read the story aloud. This exercise will help your child understand the differences between the characters and understand their points of view.

In addition, use visuals to help your child understand the story. Draw a timeline on a piece of paper and have your child help you put the main events in the correct order. Be sure the use the terms 'beginning,' 'middle' and 'end' when describing the story's structure.

Similarly, have your child draw pictures to answer the following questions about the story: who, what, where, when, why and how? These questions will help your child think about main characters, setting and plot. Drawing his answers to these questions is not only fun, but will also help your child visualize the story.

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