Getting to the root of the reading problem

Reading is an area that a lot of students struggle with and probably the one that receives the most disdain. When students haven’t conquered decoding, fusion and other emergent reading skills, the reading process is laborious, frustrating and just plain boring for everyone involved. So, let’s talk about how to address the root of the problem. I’ve created a checklist that will help you determine where your child needs to concentrate and what the next steps are. I’ll provide resources or tips below each stage, so that you can help your child improve in each area. Once they’ve achieved one skill, you can move on to the next item on the checklist. 

-My child can name each letter of the alphabet and the sound(s) that they make ____

No? Check out It’s important to practice upper case and lower case letters. 


-My child can identify all simple syllables (consonant + vowel- ba, bo, etc.)  _____

No? Check out and


-My child can identify simple sounds (on, in, ou, oi, eau, et, er, an, qu, etc.) _____

No? Check out


-My child can identify complex sounds (ouille, euil, eil, oeu, ille, etc.) _____  

No? Check out


-My child can successfully decode unfamiliar words _____

No? If your child is able to successfully identify all simple and complex sounds but is still struggling to decode words, it’s important to help them practice breaking the words into syllables. For example, the word “papillon” should be broken into “pa-pill-on.” Students should also be encouraged to take the time to decode each word instead of looking at the first letter and guessing. "Papillon" might be perceived as "personne" at a glance, for example.  It’s a good idea to choose a book that is below your child’s typical reading level to avoid frustration and begin creating good reading habits.   


-My child can read the text and then explain to me what it was about _____

No? Work on comprehension skills by stopping at the end of each page and asking your child to recap what they have read. This way, you can ensure that your child goes back to reread sections that weren’t understood before moving on. 

This is a very simplified checklist and, of course, there are other issues that can be at play such as attention deficits or specific learning challenges. This checklist can, however, help narrow down what to focus on. 

Happy reading, everyone!


Mme Michelle is an Instructional Resource Teacher in St. John’s, Newfoundland and is passionate about helping students with diverse needs thrive at school and in the real world. She started French For Life in 2012 with the goal of helping French Immersion students get the support they need to become bilingual, despite academic challenges. Interested in learning more about French For Life virtual tutoring? Contact

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published