Guest Blog: Supporting Struggling Readers

homeschooling nessy


We know that most children learn to read at different rates – but they all seem to reach a point where they are frustrated with their own readings skills. They want to be able to read – but they haven’t yet developed the skills to do it fluently.

Both my homeschooled children went through this stage. I wanted to support them with the actual process of learning to read – but I decided that I also had 2 major goals for them whilst they learned:

    1. To help them connect the written and spoken word as often as possible.

    2. To instil a love of books. I wanted them to be motivated to read because they understood the wonderful world this would open up to them.

With these goals in mind I began to look for ways to help and support them – not just with the actual reading process but within my larger goals too. I realised there was a lot of technology that I could use to broaden their horizons!

Here are some of the ideas I used:

homeschooling nessy


Connecting The Written and Spoken Word


“ What we must do in helping anyone learn to read is to make very clear that writing is an extension of speech, that beyond every written word there is a human voice speaking, and that reading is the way to hear what those voices are saying.”
– John Holt


Children want to learn to talk so they can communicate, and I wanted my children to see reading as a part of this. In fact, both of them firstly became interested in learning to write and then decided they needed to know how to read.

Using subtitles on your TV or when watching movies is a great way to help children connect the spoken word with the written word. It is a very visual way to see how the writing is just another way to communicate with other people.

My children loved to play with dictation software. My son in particular was very reluctant to handwrite and found it uncomfortable for quite a long time. But by using ‘speech to text’ software he was able to dictate stories – and then loved to get other people to read them aloud to him.


There are several free tools you can find that will do this:

  • Google Voice Doc Typing (under ‘Tools’ in a Google document)
  • Apple diction (press the FN button on your Mac)
  • Windows Speech Recognition on your PC


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If you want to go a step further and really inspire your children, turn their dictated book into a real book. Print and bind their story – leaving space for them to add their own pictures. You can bet it will be something they want to look at over and over and try to read for themselves.


Instilling a Love of Books

I have heard parents declare that they won’t read to a child who ought to be able to do it themselves. But during that time when reading was a struggle, I made even more of an effort to introduce my children to wonderful books and stories. I wanted them to see that the effort would be worth it in the long run!

As well as reading to them, we made use of audiobooks. I think we must have listed to hundreds in the car and over milk and cookies!

Choosing classics really helped to develop their vocabulary. And exciting stories made them even more determined to read for themselves. When I could I provided the printed version of the story too so they could look at the written word as well as listen.


nessy helps reading


Picture books may seem like they are only for small children but there are some fantastic picture books that will appeal to all ages – and give struggling readers a sense of accomplishment without overwhelming them.

Our favorites included the Anno books, several of which have no words at all, just beautiful imagery. Look for Anno’s Journey and Anno’s Mysterious Multiplying Jar.

I recommend you take a look at ‘A Picture Perfect Childhood’ by Cay Gibson.

The tagline is ‘Enhancing your child’s imagination and education in 15 minutes a day’ and it is filled with picture book recommendations. It includes a short list for teenagers and one for Mothers. I think you will love it!


help for homeschoolers


And finally, I wanted to speak up for comic books! Both my children pored over them for hours, figuring out what was being said! My husband read the TinTin books to them so often that they were practically word perfect – and I think this contributed to their reading skills.

These are all easily tried ideas and I hope they help you in supporting your struggling reader.




Julie Gilbert is the founder of which brings fresh ideas and activities to homeschoolers.