Why Children have Difficulty Learning to Read

Published 19 May 2017

Reading is an important part of our life and to many it seems to be a natural acquisition because the process has been very easy and successful. However, this is not so for many children and there are many reasons why some children are unable to read. These reasons could be the child’s lack of exposure to books, is not being taught the basic phonetic skills or has a very low receptive level to phonics concepts or that the child might have some forms of speech, hearing or even learning problems such as dyslexia.

Studies have shown that it is very important for a child to be exposed to books from a very young age, preferably from the time the child is born. Children who have bedtime or laptime activities conducted regularly and from an early age have been discovered to possess a higher level of vocabularies. Children who are not exposed to reading before they enter formal schools are found to be lacking in vocabularies, do not have syntactical and grammatical skills and are unable to relate the reading experience to their own prior experience.

Such children will tend to lose out as reading is not a natural process, it has to be taught. So for those who have not been exposed to reading from young will eventually still face problems when they reach adulthood. The cycle of reading difficulties will continue because these parents will in turn not have the ability to teach their younger generation. As such, studies have found out that children from poor families or those who have parents who face reading disability or who have no time to read to their children will be lacking in reading skills. Young children need to be exposed to the sounds and thus to the phonetics of our language, so parents must make it a habit to read to them frequently. Parents can make use of teaching materials at home to teach young children how to differentiate the various letters and sounds. These activities will make the learning environment less stressful and more enjoyable. Children will be more willing to learn and the lessons can be more easily retained their minds.

In addition, children who can understand the sounds and meaning of the sounds will be stimulated to read more. Very often, children who are unable to understand the words cannot decode the meanings. After numerous attempts, they will feel exhausted and will eventually give up on learning to read effectively. When this happens, their academic studies will be affected as they cannot comprehend what is taught in the classroom. Therefore, early intervention to teach children how to read is very important.

However, this gives rise to another problem as many school teachers are not competent in teaching these essential skills as they are not equipped with the necessary training and materials. Most of these reading teachers have to seek for workshops on their own to pick up such teaching reading skills. These children can only be properly equipped with the reading skills if the teachers are themselves given the proper training from the start before they start teaching. Such children will forever be stuck with the problem of having a low understanding level of the necessary phonic skills unless the parents and teachers are capable of teaching them.

A final reason why children face reading difficulties is probably because they have certain speech or hearing difficulties or that they are dyslexia. Such children will need to consult the help of professionals who will be able to give parents the correct advice. For children who are dyslexia, they are not abnormal or have any leaning disability but it is just that they cannot tell the difference between sounds. They simply cannot recall how the sounds and letters are supposed to fit together and will probably take a longer time to learn to read. Some of these children have even been found to possess higher intelligence level than other children.

In conclusion, there are many reasons why children have difficulty in learning to read but these problems can eventually be overcome if the parents and teachers are able to provide a conducive learning environment for the children.


  • G. Reid Lyon. (2000). Reading Disabilities: Why do some children have difficulty learning to read?.
  • WGBH Educational Foundation. (2002). Misunderstood Minds.
  • PBS Parents (2002 – 2007). A Primer on Dyslexia.l
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