Children's reading difficulties can begin with the miscue of a troublesome word.

Children's reading difficulties present in a number of different ways. One of the most common reading miscues your child can make is to come to an unknown word and simply say nothing.

It may be that your child doesn't have adequate decoding skills to begin to tackle the difficult word or there isn't a word in your child's lexicon that he/she can compare the new word to.

For example, if we use the the text example: 'The storm tossed the tiny boat on the seas as if it were a matchstick. The sun shone for a moment, but its warming rays were quickly engulfed by the angry and bruised sky.'

Your child may have difficulty with the word 'éngulfed,' not be able to decode it adequately, and simply remain stuck on that particular word.

When this occurs a good strategy to use is to read on to the end of the passage and see if the word or the words meaning can be deduced using the context of the passage as a guide.

If this strategy is unsuccessful, ask your child, 'What happened to the warming rays?' A possible answer could be that 'they were covered up by the clouds.'

You can use phonemic awareness activities to help your child to break down the problem word such as break the word down into separate syllables by writing them down and then using handclaps to help sound out the word.

For example, the word 'engulfed' could be written and split into three parts: /en/-/gulf/-/ed/. Then use handclaps and verbally chant the word in its separate syllables - /en/ (clap) /gulf/ (clap) /ed/ (clap). Ask: 'How many parts (syllables)? Answer: three.

Ask your child if they know of any other words that begin with /en/? A dictionary is a useful tool to aid you in finding words with a similar prefix.

If your child continues to have difficulty with a problem word, tell them the word. Then use a dictionary and thesaurus to discuss the word, its meaning, and possible synonyms.


Blank, M. (2006)The Reading Remedy. Six Essential Skills that Will Turn Your Child into a Reader. Jossey-Bass

DeKemel, K.P. (2003) Intervention in Language Arts: A Practical Guide for Speech-Language Pathologists. Butterworth-Heinemann.

Wagner, R.K. Muse, A.E. & Tannenbaum, K.R. (2007) Vocabulary Acquisition: Implications for Reading Comprehension. The Guilford Press

Wolf, M. (2008) Proust and the Squid. The Story and Science of the Reading Brain Icon Books Ltd.

Content Updated 8/11

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