Mom-to-Mom Support/My 10-year-old is still struggling to read

My 10-year-old is still struggling to read

Boy having trouble sounding out words reading


My 10-year-old son is still struggling to read. I have been having him use letter blocks to break the words that he misreads in a story into syllables. This helps because as he sees me writing down the words he will go back and try to figure them out and as he breaks them into syllables he can figure them out. He consistently stumbles over and misreads small words such as of, for, from, and, but, etc. I have tried many things but I’m getting frustrated. I believe I can help him if I can find the right approach. I have used many of your materials. What do you suggest?

Dear Parent,

What a good method you have discovered for helping your son break words into syllables.  You are exactly on the right track!

First, boys are often a bit slower in catching on to reading than girls.  In addition, it isn’t unusual for children to rush through words on the page, which leads to errors, even with easy words as you have noted. 

It appears that your son is in a hurry to get through the words. Sounding out takes time; it is not uncommon for children to guess at words rather than slow down to sound them out.  I would encourage you to continue with the excellent method you are using, with this slight difference:  note missed words as he reads, then when he has finished reading the selection, give your son the list and the blocks to break the missed words into syllables or “pieces” himself. Encourage him to listen to the word parts as he sounds the word out. Then have him write those word parts that he hears, and finally, write the complete word right next to the “pieces.” Be sure to lavish praise on him as he works through this process— “good job sounding out,” etc.

Slow his reading pace by cutting a narrow, two-inch slot in an index card or piece of heavy paper.  When the card is placed over the page, it should reveal only a few words at a time.  (This will show him the reading pace and force him to focus more carefully on each word.  However, do this exercise only for the first part of the lesson; the ultimate goal is still to have him read fluidly, which he cannot do if he uses the card for all reading.)

Make cards or sticky notes of the commonly missed easy words, such as of, from, and for.  Sound the words out with him, telling him to make special note of the letter sound(s) that begin the word.  If possible, post these notes close to his school area for reference. The words can be sounded out before reading time each day for a few days, keeping the notes up for a gentle reminder now and then.

Most of all, encourage him to read on his own, particularly library books at his level.  If he is reluctant to do this voluntarily, you might cheerfully announce that each afternoon there will be a fifteen-minute reading time while you prepare dinner, or some such. 

You are on the right track; by practicing these methods, I think you’ll see a big difference in your son’s reading level in a few months.

May our good Jesus bless and guide your homeschooling days.

Nancy Nicholson

About Nancy Nicholson

Nancy Nicholson is one of the founding authors of Catholic Heritage Curricula. Equipped with an abundance of God-given talent, a major in Secondary Education–English, and years of experience homeschooling her own children, she has written over thirty educational titles, beginning with Little Stories for Little Folks. Her unique ability to develop programs and workbooks that “fit” both advanced and struggling students is due to her experience raising children of different ability levels and learning styles: two of her children are developmentally challenged, while another went on to graduate from Harvard and is now a college professor.