Help for Teenagers Who Can't Read

The ability to read and comprehend a text is crucial for a student's success in all subject areas because every class has a textbook. If your teenager is struggling to read, use the following tips and exercises at home.

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Reading Help for Teens

Identify the Problem

Your teen may be struggling to read because she doesn't know how to decode words, or she's not actively engaged in what she's reading. The first action you may want to take is to determine what type of reading problem your teen is experiencing. Begin by listening to your teen read aloud. If you notice that she gets stuck on multisyllabic words, then the first step is to build her ability to read fluently. If, however, your teen is able to read aloud with ease, then the problem may be her ability to comprehend the text.


The key to improving your teen's reading and comprehension skills is to build his reading fluency. Reading fluency is the ability to read a text smoothly, quickly and accurately. If your teen has to actively think about each individual word, it's nearly impossible for him to understand the content of what he's reading.

One way to improve your child's reading fluency is to teach her how to decode words. Decoding a word means breaking it apart into smaller, more understandable pieces. For multisyllabic words, like fashionable, it can be helpful to break the word apart syllable by syllable. For instance, fashionable has four syllables: /fa/ /shi/ /na/ /ble/.

Using this technique, your teen can sound out large words using smaller parts. To practice, pick a text with multisyllabic words and help your child work through the difficult words. Practicing frequently will help your teen internalize this process and increase his confidence.


Context Clues

In addition to being able to pronounce a word accurately, your teen has to figure out the word's meaning. Context clues are the words around an unknown word that help the reader deduce the word's meaning. Consider the following example.

Cindy is really fashionable. She has a new style each week!

In this sentence, fashionable is the unknown word. However, we know that Cindy has a new style each week, which indicates that she cares about her appearance and clothing styles. Therefore, we can guess that fashionable means stylish.

Take Notes

It can be helpful for your teenager to take notes if she's struggling to comprehend and remember what she's read, whether in literature or in textbooks. In literature, it can be helpful to record the main events of the story. Have your teen stop every five pages and review what she read by retelling the story aloud to you or by writing it down. Frequently reviewing the reading will help your teen become a more active reader.

In textbooks, the writing is more didactic than in literature, which can get boring for some teenagers. Taking notes can help your teen focus on the text because he has to process the information, rather than just letting his eyes run over the words. Your teen should be looking for main ideas and supporting details in each paragraph. Then, after reading, he should go over his notes and do a quick review session.

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