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Decoding and Comprehension Tips for Struggling Readers

Does your child have reading comprehension challenges? Uncover the surprising link between decoding skills and reading comprehension challenges and check out our tips for struggling readers



As parents, it's not uncommon to have concerns about our children's reading comprehension, in fact, it's one of the most common inquiries we receive as reading specialists. We often receive inquiries from parents who share worries about their child's ability to understand and grasp the meaning of the text. Interestingly, what might not be immediately evident is the intricate connection between decoding skills and comprehension—a connection that can sometimes elude even the most vigilant parents.


In our interactions with concerned parents, a recurring theme emerges: a focus on comprehension, often prompted by teachers' observations and concerns. However, as our initial screenings frequently reveal, the key to unlocking comprehension often lies in addressing significant gaps in decoding skills. Join us as we explore this crucial connection and uncover practical insights to support your child's reading journey.

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The Foundation: Decoding Skills

The first step in unlocking the code


Decoding is like being a detective for words. Imagine you have a secret code, and your job is to figure out what each symbol or letter means. In reading, words are like secret codes on a page. When you decode, you're figuring out the sounds that each letter or group of letters makes and then putting those sounds together to say the word out loud. It's like unlocking the mystery of written language and turning it into spoken words that make sense.


Decoding forms the bedrock of reading. It involves understanding the relationship between letters and sounds, effectively breaking the code that words present. Children who struggle with decoding often find themselves facing hurdles when confronted with unfamiliar words or complex texts. Read more decoding and Comprehension Tips for Struggling Readers below.

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Reading Comprehension

The Ripple Effect that decoding has on reading comprehension

Decoding challenges cast a shadow on reading comprehension. As we mentioned above, decoding can be a gateway to understanding. When a child stumbles over words or finds decoding laborious, it siphons cognitive energy away from understanding the meaning behind the words. In other words, they are focusing so much on how to read and the leftover effort has to be saved to understand what they read. This ripple effect can hinder the comprehension process.

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The effect that decoding difficulties have on reading comprehension

Adding Fluency to the Cycle

Decoding, Fluency, and Comprehension


Difficulty in decoding not only impacts comprehension directly but can also lead to challenges in reading fluency. Fluency, the ability to read with speed, accuracy, and expression, is a close companion to decoding. Struggling readers may experience a vicious cycle where decoding issues slow down the reading process, affecting fluency, which, in turn, further hampers comprehension.


Unraveling the Connection:

An Approach to understanding the intimate connection between decoding and comprehension is the first step. Parents play a pivotal role in breaking down these barriers. Here are some strategies and tips for struggling readers:

Assessing Gaps:

Every child is unique, and their struggles with reading may stem from different areas. Assessing your child's specific gaps is a crucial step. It's not always about decoding skills; many students have gaps in other essential areas. Whether it's vocabulary, fluency, or other foundational skills, identifying these gaps allows for targeted and effective intervention. A specialist can conduct screenings to pinpoint these areas, ensuring a personalized approach to address your child's unique needs.


Contact us to schedule your child's assessment today!


Prioritize Decoding Skills:

Before diving into broader reading comprehension strategies, it's crucial to target decoding skills. This involves working with a specialist using a program like Orton-Gillingham or Barton. These programs systematically teach and reteach phonemic awareness and decoding skills, laying a strong foundation for improved comprehension down the line. By starting here, you're giving your child the key to unlock a world of understanding in their reading journey.


Multisensory Learning:

Engage your child in multisensory activities that involve touch, sight, and sound. This reinforces decoding skills in a holistic manner.


Encourage Reading Aloud At the Appropriate Reading Level:

Reading aloud together not only strengthens decoding skills but also provides an opportunity for shared comprehension. Check out some ideas from our previous blog about help choosing books for students with reading difficulties.


Build a Rich Vocabulary:

Expand your child's vocabulary. A robust vocabulary aids decoding and enhances overall comprehension.


Foster a Love for Reading:

Make reading an enjoyable experience. Cultivate a positive attitude toward books and stories.


Conclusion: Cracking the Code

Cracking the code to reading success involves acknowledging the symbiotic relationship between decoding and comprehension. By adopting a holistic approach, working closely with educators, and creating a supportive reading environment at home, parents can empower their children to overcome decoding challenges and embark on a journey to comprehensive literacy. Remember, each child is unique, and progress may come in small steps. Celebrate every achievement, and with time, the path to reading proficiency will become clearer.

If you notice your child struggling with decoding or facing difficulties in reading, it's important not to wait, as reading difficulties are often linked. They don't often go away by themselves. Sometimes, students need one-on-one intervention to thrive.


We're here to help! Take the first step by assessing your child's reading skills. Don't hesitate to reach out for a complementary consultation. During this consultation, we can learn more about your child, understand their unique needs, and together, we can determine the best course of action. Remember, early intervention is key, and we're here to support your child on their journey to becoming a confident reader. Reach out today for a personalized consultation to set your child up for reading success!

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