• Slow laboured reading.
  • Reading at a level or ‘reading age’ below what one would expect for the child’s age.
  • Too much sounding out.

To develop accuracy and fluency

Learn more ‘sight’ or ‘high frequency’ * words, ensure words within and below his or her range are sufficiently known for quick recognition.  Timed reading is useful here. Learn lists of words containing phonic sound patterns at the right level. Older, weak readers but who have gained a reading age of about nine, often benefit from work on words using long vowels (when a vowel gives the sounds A,E, I,O,U (the last pronounced ‘you’ or ‘oo’). This is because so much early work is likely to have been devoted to words containing ‘short vowels’ i.e. of a ‘cat’, ‘dog’, ‘mat’ nature.

On occasion, preparation, in terms of word patterns to be met and the introduction of the setting of the book, can be useful to further develop accuracy and fluency.

When the reader comes to an unknown word and needs to ‘break it up’:

  • Cover the ending such as an ‘ing’,‘ed’ ‘ly’ or ‘ment’ and ‘read’ the first syllable ALOUD. This will so often assist with the whole word. Added to this, use of the meaning and the context so often supports the ability to decode.
  • Recognising prefixes for example un, de, re, dis, mis is also useful.
  • Again, to get used to breaking words up, cut up polysyllabic words, put them together and read them.


Rushed with a lot of misreading of words; excessive guessing leading to inaccuracy.

Concentration is an issue here. The pupil must slow down, it’s as simple as that and ‘read carefully.’ This is easier said than done but by guiding the eyes with a pen and stopping at misread words, concentration and accuracy can improve. The child will often start to read a word correctly and then change their attempt and misread. It would seem perhaps because they are unconfident and have had years of making mistakes. Encouraging the first attempt by saying yes or reinforcing the word by repeating the beginning of it, while the pupil reads, will help. The child must actually ‘read what’s there’ and not make it up! Decoding takes mental effort and concentration but it needs to be done.  It is important for the child to continue to persist with an unknown word, as they will often ‘get’ it in the end.

On the other hand, accurate decoding is something for which we aim, but one must recognise that it cannot always be fully achieved. See the section on silent reading.

*‘high frequency’ or commonly used words


Small words are misread. 

This is difficult because sometimes it doesn’t matter and sometimes it does. An example of the latter is ‘do’ or ‘don’t’. The difference between ‘a’ and ‘the’ often doesn’t always matter a great deal, though sometimes it will slightly change an emphasis and this can be explained to pupils at a later age. Some children grow out of misreading small words; others need to continue to monitor the problem.


Reversals and Transposals 

Reversals of b/d/p are the most common and difficult to remediate. One should deal with p or b first; the pupil undertaking discrimination between one of these and a very different letter, then gaining an accurate response to the those being targeted. It is always a question of finding the time to tackle this persistent problem while the need for other skills is more pressing. Ideally, one would work on it every day for ten minutes or certainly every time one teaches reading.

Eventually, when pupils are actually reading for meaning, they begin to self – correct e.g. ‘the bogs roam the city,’ will be corrected to say ‘dogs’. A little tracking from left to right before reading may also prove useful. One teaching method is for the reader – partner or teacher always to (as far as is possible) say the correct sound whether ‘b’/‘d’ /‘p’ or before the incorrect one is read – a kind of patterning. The same is true of ‘on’ and ‘no’.

By transposals, one means that the eyes take a letter that is in the middle of a word and transfer it to the start. This often seems to be from a letter combination something such as ‘par and pr’ – ‘particle’ misread as ‘practical’ – the ‘pr’ is obviously a slightly ‘easier’ and certainly more common in early instruction. Likewise, ‘tired’ and ‘tried’. The same method as described above can be used. There is an obvious lack of decoding here too.

Co-reading can be an excellent way of developing fluency; here again, the correct reading of problematic letters/sounds before an error is made is a very useful strategy. Generally, using a pen or pencil to guide the eyes along the line is good. Additionally, where concentration is an issue, tapping on a hard surface is an excellent way to keep the mind on the text.

The Role of Silent Reading

As a teacher of reading, one’s stress is so often on reading accuracy that one can be loath to allow the student to do much silent reading. However, one must recall that is also a vital aspect of reading, once the youngster has a reading age of about eight. At that stage, reading a page or finishing a chapter of a chapter book silently is great. Undoubtedly, errors will be made but this is part of the learning process. Encouraging silent reading at home does take effort on everybody’s part. Strategies are detailed in General Tips  Reading silently can often be rewarding for the pupil with reading difficulties as the pressure is off and general comprehension is still gained. Alongside this, reading aloud two or three times a week may still be useful.  If comprehension is challenged in this situation, choose books of an ‘easier’ nature.


Lack of comprehension 

At the early stages, comprehension is straightforward. Later, problems may arise with inference i.e. understanding meanings which are not immediately clear from what has been read. Developing a good vocabulary and acquiring some reasonable, age-appropriate general and historical knowledge will always assist. Later, even those with good oral comprehension, may need to improve written comprehension, especially for tests and examinations. Research also says that writing compositions is favourable to the development of comprehension.

Other Ideas

Some pupils find a coloured overlay helpful in reducing the glare of white paper.