5 Tips to Help Struggling Readers

March 19, 2023

Are you a parent or a teacher of a student who is a struggling reader? If so, this post is for you! In today’s blog post, I am going to share 5 tips to help you teach your struggling readers and bring them success!

Before I dive in, I wanted to let you know that all this information is available in video format and if you want to watch/listen to it, just click play below:

If you want to read the information instead, just keep scrolling!


Tip 1: Find out EXACTLY where your students are struggling

If you notice your student is struggling to read, it may be difficult at first to identify exactly where this child is having trouble. This can indicate that it is a good time to give them a screener! Now there are many different phonics screeners out there and the goal of a screener is to find out where your student is getting tripped up so you can begin your instruction there!

Two of my favorite phonics screeners are the QPS (Quick Phonics Screener) and the CORE Phonics Survey. You can find them both free online here >> QPS and >>> CORE Phonics Survey

If you have never given a phonics screener before, be sure to read the instructions on each one to see what sheet to give them, what prompts to say to students, and find out when to stop the screener. We don’t want to continue testing students well past their frustration level. We want to find the sweet spot!

Once you’ve given and scored your screener, you will be able to identify what phonics skills are tricky for your students. It may be CVC words, consonant blends, digraphs, or something else entirely! Identifying the trouble spot is step 1. Once you’ve done that, then you want to look at a scope and sequence to identify what lessons your student may need. If you don’t have your own curriculum with a scope and sequence to follow, my two favorites include the LETRS scope and sequence as well as the one from UFLI.

You can find both of those here >> LETRS Scope and Sequence and >>> UFLI Scope and Sequence

So to sum up tip one: using literacy screeners and a research-based scope and sequence, you can take a diagnostic approach to help your struggling reader!



Tip 2: Remember that it may take longer than you think!

This may sound discouraging at first, but it isn’t meant to be! The fact of the matter is that students who struggle to read often need MORE exposures to a new concept as well as LONGER durations of intervention at a higher intensity than other students. This mindset shift is an important tip because we need to be prepared to give our students multiple research-based lessons on a skill before they master it.

Now, this isn’t always the case, of course, because some students are identified as struggling readers due to lack of exposure, English being a second language, etc. But if your student isn’t learning and applying the skills you are teaching as quickly as you’d like, just remember they may need more and longer interventions and that is A-okay! Now the caveat here is to make sure the interventions you are giving are research-based. Naturally, if you are not teaching students in a way that is backed by research as successful in teaching students to read, then doing more of it won’t help. I have some recommendations coming up next for this!



Tip 3: Use Research-Based Interventions

When looking for good research-based interventions to help students learn to read, it should have a scope and sequence that progressively gets more difficult as students master skills (look back to tip 1 where I recommended LETRS and UFLI). But that’s not it.

There are five things a good, research-based intervention should have when teaching students to read. They are as follows:


There are many different programs out there that include all 5 of these components, but if you’re looking for some recommendations, I like the following:

First up is the UFLI Foundations program. Now I have mentioned this one a few times already in this post as this is the scope and sequence I love, but the entire explicit phonics program is a great value! The book shown above in the picture includes all the explicit phonics lessons you would need for K-2 and it has a huge online portal with everything you need to accompany these lessons (teaching slides, decodable texts, hands-on activities, and so much more).

The spiral-bound program is only $70 and the online parts are completely free, making this a very affordable program for most!! You can find out how to order this here >> UFLI Foundations


The next recommendation I have is more of an investment both financially and time-wise, but if you have the funding, I highly recommend it. Last year, I took the IMSE Orton Gillingham Comprehensive Plus training. IMSE stands for “Institute for Multi-Sensory Education” and the course was a 30-hour course teaching us how to implement the Orton Gillingham method using their materials. Along with the 30 hour live training from a certified trainer, you receive TONS of materials to use to teach your students how to read. Some of the materials include 3 teacher guides (one for K, 1, and 2) with explicit lessons to teach following their scope and sequence, a blending board, sand for kinesthetic learning, and SO much more.

Thankfully, many school districts are offering funding for this program, so I would definitely reach out to your district to see if this is something you could do! To learn more about the trainings, just head here >>> IMSE Orton Gillingham Trainings


Now last, but not least, I included an app in this list! This is different from the above programs I recommended, but it’s research-based, includes the 5 components I mentioned above, and is a GREAT start for parents at home! Normally when we think of an app, we think of independent student practice, but this app is great because it needs to be done WITH parents! The app has scripted lessons for parents to use with their children and each lesson follows the effective steps of teaching phonics.

Here is a little clip of how to app works:  Reading.com Clip

If this app is something you want to check out, you can actually get 3 months of Reading.com for the price of 1 when you use my link: https://bit.ly/SJTReading



Tip 4: Incorporate Multi-sensory Learning:

The four main components of multisensory learning include visual (learning through watching and seeing), auditory (learning through listening and hearing sounds), kinesthetic (learning through physical activity or body movement), and tactile (learning through the sense of touch).

When teaching how to read, we want to make sure we include multisensory activities to help our students. We can use sand and paintbrushes to form letters, we can use our arms and do some skywriting, we can use pop-its and play dough. In fact, I made a whole video sharing fun and effective multi-sensory activities here for you to see: 10 Multisensory Activities to use in a K-2 Classroom!



Tip 5: Don’t Skip the Read Aloud!

This may not happen during your small group or 1-on-1 instruction when you are really focusing on phonics and phonemic awareness, but we want to make sure we are still giving students opportunities to enjoy reading!

There are so many benefits to reading aloud. We get to have students practice listening comprehension, we can introduce our students to many new vocabulary words, we can talk about themes such as honesty, kindness, and being a good friend, and they can see fluent modeled reading!

So if you are spending 20-30 minutes a day using focused, research-based lessons with your struggling reader… keep it up! Don’t stop! Just remember to add in a quick read-aloud and enjoy a book together. Talk about what happens in the story, laugh with your child or students, and have some good ole’ fun!


So there you have 5 of my top tips for helping your struggling readers become successful readers! I would love to know if any of these tips stood out to you or if you have any other tips you’d like to share, Just let me know down in the comments!


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