Reading Difficulties

Components of Reading Difficulties

The National Reading Panel reviewed over 100,000 reading studies and identified five skills essential for reading success:

  • phonological and phonemic awareness,
  • phonics,
  • fluency,
  • vocabulary, and
  • reading comprehension.

This massive study concluded in 2000, and the resulting report has guided the development of reading programs ever since. Reading difficulties in any of these five core areas need to be targeted with instruction starting at whatever level the student is ready for in that area.  A good starting point for Wings to Soar Online Academy to create a Path to Success™ Personalized Learning Plan is to request our free Just-Right Level™ Assessments.

Six specific learning concerns connected to reading difficulty

Reading difficulties may have to do with at least six different specific learning concerns that each need to be addressed. The online intervention programs often address more than one these reading difficulties.

We can help create a Path to Success™ Personalized Learning Plan (recommended to build up to working in the custom combination of 2-4 programs for about an hour total daily) that will help your student build skills, confidence, and independent success in areas where they currently have reading difficulties.

  • Phonological and Phonemic Awareness are foundational for all other reading and spelling and are an excellent predictor of success in school. This involves skills that are all auditory such as rhyming (bat, cat, hat) and alliteration (first sounds the same). It also includes being able to separate and manipulate the individual speech sounds which is an essential skill for spelling. Many people assume they need to start working with their student on phonics which has to do with the sound-symbol match, but if the student does not have these underlying skills intact, intensive work on phonics may not help much with their reading difficulties.
  • Once a solid foundation is laid in the phonological and phonemic awareness skills, dyslexics (and many other students benefit from explicit instruction in sounding out words, also known as decoding or phonics. Most dyslexic students need a quality Orton-Gillingham based phonics program that is explicit, systematic, and multisensory to help them internalize these important decoding skills before any of their other reading difficulties will see much improvement. Phonics skills also have a strong link to spelling the approximately 85% of words in our language that follow predictable phonetic patterns.
  • Once a student has mastered the core decoding skills, they often still have a very slow reading speed. Some student are able to build fluency by just reading texts that are at a fairly easy reading level for themselves. It is not uncommon for dyslexic upper elementary to high school students who have a solid phonics foundation and can read and understand most texts appropriate to their level to still have reading fluency rates comparable to a first or second grader. Targeted daily fluency building practice that only builds up speed as long as it does not sacrifice additional speed for comprehension is necessary for many and helpful for most. A reading rate of 125 words per minute (which is where I commonly see those with reading difficulties place after basic phonics work has been done) is the target reading rate for a first grader. If we can help this student double their reading rate to a target more appropriate for late middle school this can cut the time it takes to do their assignments in half which means more time for activities they enjoy.
  • While many dyslexics often have excellent oral vocabulary, most students would still benefit from targeted vocabulary development. Reading aloud to students or encouraging them to ear-read using audio-supported text are one strategy that helps build vocabulary. Many informal strategies can be used to encourage playing with words to strengthen vocabulary. Specifically working on building word-part based vocabulary and/or deeper vocabulary knowledge by exploring multiple meanings and nuances of usage can be very worthwhile. If a student has an insufficient store of vocabulary or poor semantic map of connections between vocabulary words it will contribute to both reading difficulties and writing problems.
  • Of course any reading comprehension problems get in the way of the ultimate goal of reading which is understanding the printed word. For some, just reading books for pleasure at a fairly easy independent reading level is adequate to build comprehension. Some students need programs that explicitly teach comprehension skills while others just need practice on using their comprehension skills (often paired with fluency practice). Think about whether the comprehension concerns are only when the student is reading text for themselves or whether they also have comprehension concerns if they hear a text read aloud. Also, consider whether their comprehension challenges occur primarily when they are asked to read the text aloud or whether they also have difficulty comprehending text they have read silently (which can be assessed by asking basic Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? questions about what they have read).
  • While visual processing and eye tracking problems are not directly about reading skills, if a student has trouble with these it will cause reading difficulties and needs to be separately addressed.
  • Dyslexia is an alternate term for a specific learning disability with impairment in reading. It is estimated that about 1 in 6 individuals in the United States have dyslexic-type learning concerns. I created this informal test for dyslexia and information page to help you think through whether you or your child may have this unique brain wiring. Working with dyslexics is our speciality at Wings to Soar. We love helping our dyslexic students embrace the flip-side strengths that go along with the same brain wiring that also causes the challenges more commonly associated with dyslexia. It is not uncommon for students with dyslexia to make 1 ½-3 years gains within their first school year when they use the programs in their Path to Success™ Personalized Learning Plan according to the recommended protocol (building to an hour daily between 2-4 programs).

Let us create a Customized Package
to help

At Wings to Soar Online Academy, we work with you to create a customized package that includes the programs that are just right for your unique situation. If you have curriculum that is already working for a particular learning area, we respect that and don’t want you to feel you need to enroll in more than you need with us. We want to come alongside you to help you fill in the gaps of what isn’t working. Please explore the following menu of possible online programs that we offer at Wings to Soar that we could include in your child’s Path to Success™ Personalized Learning Plan.

If you haven’t already requested your free Just-Right Level™ Assessments, get started there. We’ll email you a personalized set of recommendations of possible programs that might be a good fit for your child’s specific learning concern profile based on the results.

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