The Best Reading Programs for Children Struggling with Reading

The journey into literacy can be challenging for some children, particularly those struggling with reading difficulties. Early intervention is crucial for these young learners, as it lays the foundation for their academic and personal growth. 

When school or home reading isn’t proving effective, and you need additional support to boost your child’s reading abilities, you might consider employing any of a series of specialized reading programs. Here we’ll run through several of the most successful systems for improving the literacy of young readers (K-3).

Understanding the Needs of Struggling Readers

Before you select a program, it’s vital to know what kinds of difficulties your child is having. Common problems may include phonemic awareness, fluency, comprehension, or vocabulary development. Tailoring a reading program can significantly improve impact by addressing the specific needs of each child.

Tailored Reading Programs

1: Orton-Gillingham Approach: multi-sensory reading instruction

5 multisensory orton gillingham activities to use in the classroom

The Orton-Gillingham Approach is known for its efficacy in helping children with dyslexia and other reading difficulties. This multisensory method teaches reading by engaging multiple senses, including visual, auditory, and kinesthetic pathways, to enhance memory and learning of written language. 

When teaching using this method, tutors break reading down into a step-by-step process using letters, sounds, touch, and movement. This makes the experience of reading richer and more engaging for reluctant children who have experienced frustration trying to learn to read traditionally.

This method’s structured, explicit, and sequential approach to literacy instruction makes it a powerful tool in developing reading skills.

2: Wilson Reading System: a structured literacy program

Wilson Program Research: five components: phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

The Wilson Reading System is another program designed to aid dyslexic readers in grades 2-12. The Wilson program is based on research that reading combines five critical components: phonemic awareness and phonics (also referred to as alphabetics), fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. The program offers a step-by-step approach to literacy that emphasizes phonemic awareness, decoding, and sight word recognition. 

Focusing on small groups (up to four students) this program meticulously breaks down the reading process into manageable components, delivered in 90 minute, twice-weekly tutorials. The aim is to internalize the rules of the English language, helping readers grasp the logic behind the words on the page. Unique methods such as “sound-tapping” help readers understand syllables and how they combine into words. 

The method is broken into twelve overall steps, and subdivided into 63 sub-steps, making this a highly methodical approach.

3: Reading Recovery: individualized intervention for early readers

Reading Recovery Lesson Structure

Reading Recovery stands out for its individualized approach, providing one-on-one instruction to struggling readers in the early grades (aged 5 or 6). It is a short-term intervention involving a daily half-hour session over 12 to 20 weeks.

Developed in the 1970s, the program hinges on the notion that reading is a message-receiving and problem-solving activity. Many schools in North America, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK now offer this successful intervention.

This program focuses on quickly accelerating students’ reading capabilities to bring them up to grade level, emphasizing the importance of personalized learning paths in the literacy journey. However, studies have shown it to be less successful with older readers, for whom another learning system, such as phonics, may prove advantageous.

4: Lindamood-Bell programs: visualizing and verbalizing

Lindamood-Bell‘s visualizing and verbalizing approach targets the essential skills of reading comprehension and language processing. It engages the sensory and cognitive processes that turn written descriptions into scenes in a reader’s mind’s eye.

By teaching children to create mental imagery as they read and verbalize their understanding, this program targets common reading challenges, making it easier for young readers to grasp and retain information.

This program is particularly good at addressing individual children’s reading-related diagnoses and delivering one-to-one, remedial assistance in a highly focused manner.

5: Fast ForWord: neuroscience-based reading intervention

Fast ForWord Program

Fast ForWord, developed by Carnegie Learning, takes a neuroscience-based approach to improve language skills by targeting the underlying cognitive processes essential for reading success. 

Delivered entirely online, this program offers a series of exercises designed to build memory, attention, processing speed, and sequencing skills. The aim is to build a solid foundation for reading development. It’s designed in individual strands suitable for elementary, middle school and high school students (K-12).

Evidence based and highly scientific in approach, Fast ForWord boasts a learning gain of 1-2 years for as little as 40-60 hours of study.

Online reading programs: accessible support for struggling readers

In today’s digital age, online reading programs offer accessible and flexible support for struggling readers. There are numerous short, popular courses delivered on fun, gamified platforms.

The following programs are effective in addressing reading difficulties and engaging young readers through interactive, game-based learning experiences:

The benefit of such platforms is that you can try them together with your child and see if they work without committing to an expensive program that may be difficult to access.

Supporting readers with learning disabilities: specialized programs

For children with specific learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, ADHD, and auditory processing disorders, specialized reading programs are available to address their unique needs. 

These programs use tailored approaches and strategies to overcome the challenges faced by struggling readers, ensuring every child can achieve literacy success.

A good way to access such schemes is to visit the following sites and check out their resources links:

There you’ll find specialized and local services you can access.

Parental involvement and supplemental resources

Of course, nothing is as encouraging to a child struggling to read as a supportive and encouraging parent. Whatever method you choose, make sure you examine the recommended reading programs before you commit, to understand what part you’ll play in the process.

You can also seek out supplemental resources, such as educational apps, easy-reading materials, and at-home activities that reinforce learnt skills and foster a love of reading.

TLDR: What reading program is best for my child?

Supporting a struggling child through effective reading programs is essential for their academic success and personal growth. Reading is magical, offering a fast-track to education, broadening a child’s horizons and providing an escape from the everyday.

By implementing the tailored support offered by the above programs, we strive to ensure that every child overcomes their reading challenges and learns to love those strange squiggles that open a world of imagination.

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