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How to Teach Learning Disabled Children to Read

By K. Lee Banks ; Updated June 13, 2017

Children with learning disabilities, or LD, struggle to accomplish tasks such as reading, writing and calculating math problems. Reading disabilities, according to LD Online, account for about 80 percent of LD, while literacy rates for about 20 percent of students rank at five or more grade levels behind in their reading capacities. Since reading is fundamental to success with other subjects in school, teaching learning disabled children to read is a priority for teachers and parents alike.

  1. Focus on what the child knows and build his reading comprehension from that point. For instance, if the child knows his alphabet, begin showing him short, one syllable words as you write them on paper or a whiteboard. Engage the child in guided practice, as LD Online recommends, by pronouncing words and then having the child repeat the word as you emphasize each letter. Demonstrate how the sounds of letters combine to form words.

  2. Practice writing and reading several one syllable words together with the child as another guided practice step. Use a whiteboard so you can easily make corrections. Ask the child to point to a word when you say it. Determine if the child can accurately identify each word. Next, give the child an opportunity to read a word while you point at the correct word.

  3. Begin forming short sentences for the child as you continue to model correct enunciation. As emphasizes, you build reading accuracy in the child by modeling words for her and correcting her when necessary if she mispronounces words. Point at each word as you pronounce it. Encourage her to repeat each word after you. Duplicate the process for guided practice in writing, reading and speaking the sentences.

  4. Practice the first three steps as often as necessary for the child to feel comfortable as he demonstrates reading comprehension. Conduct writing and reading drills to further increase and reinforce the child’s literacy skills.

  5. Play various games that will provide opportunities for enjoyable interaction while your youngster learns. Your child might like board games such as Boggle or Scrabble Jr. Imaginative word games such as "Build a Sentence" or "The Synonym Game" might also make learning fun. With "Build a Sentence," pick an object and ask your child to give you a word that describes it. Once you have one word, work together to build a sentence using the adjective to describe the object. With "The Synonym Game," challenge your youngster to think of as many synonyms for a word -- walk, trot, amble, stroll and hike, for example.

  6. Introduce easy reading books to the child. Assure her that reading a book follows the same technique as your practice drills.

  7. Employ technology suitable for each individual child when possible, as LD Online suggests. Scan reading materials to create digital text that you may customize for the child’s needs. For instance, increase the font size or change the background color. Similarly, text-to-speech software especially aids dyslexic students as it uses highlighting to indicate words read and increases vocabulary comprehension.

  8. Tip

    Focus on literacy instruction suitable for the child’s age and grade level.

    No one method provides the exclusive answer to teaching reading, as LD Online cautions. Phonics emphasizes how letters and words sound, while whole language focuses on understanding meanings of words. A balance between the two methods provides a better blend of instruction.

    Reinforce and praise each accomplishment to encourage the child.


    Maintain reasonable expectations so you don’t discourage the child.

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