Reading is an essential skill that plays a significant role in learning, communication, and comprehension. As a parent, you can support your child’s early literacy right from birth and ensure that they can read without any issues. 

If they are having trouble reading, no need to worry. You are not alone, and many kids also struggle with this problem. Fortunately, with proper reading support, your little one can eventually read without any hassle. To identify if they are a struggling reader, here are some symptoms of common reading disorders that you should look out for:

1. Issues with phonemic awareness 

Having problems with phonemic awareness is a symptom of reading disorders. Phonemic awareness refers to an awareness of the sounds within words, so you can think of it as sound awareness.  Some children have little difficulty processing whole words, but it is difficult for them to figure out which sounds are in the word, and in which order.

You may hear speech difficulties such as sound substitutions and deletions.  Children may have trouble pronouncing longer sounds, and mis-pronounce common words such as “hosible”, “amblience”, or “restaurnat”.  

There are reading and spelling problems too.  These children have difficulty acquiring “sight words”.  They often have difficulty sounding words out, are late to learn the entire alphabet, have difficult identifying letters, print letters backward, and have difficulty reading aloud.  Spelling is typically a significant challenge. 

Any of the above red flags ringing a bell?  Make the call.  There is a language disorder at play, and it is going to make reading difficult.  And it can be improved with practise! 

2. Reading Aloud

Slow, halting/choppy reading, expressionless reading, or difficulty remembering what was read?  The act of reading in this case is requiring too much processing power.  Something in the language systems underlying reading are not fully developed.  Your child can get the job done, but the brain is revving pretty high.  These children usually fall behind their peers and lose interest in reading.  Time to get help! 

3. Writing problems

Spelling is different than writing.  When there is a spelling problem, there is an underlying language disorder.   When it comes to writing, does your child have difficulties with organizing, remembering what they wanted to write, missing words, forgetting capitals and punctuation, or letter formation?  Difficulty with writing is usually called by difficulties with Working Memory or an underlying language disorder; AND, children can have BOTH. 

What Are the Best Strategies for Addressing Symptoms of Reading Disorders?

1. Use systematic, explicit, structured, progressive teaching

Many people try to children above their level, and then progress levels too fast – before the child has mastered the skill.  This is a recipe for failure and frustration.  Instruction must be done within a complexity hierarchy and progress logically from easier foundational skills to more complex ones.  Programs should run on progress, not TIME – a lesson a day or a lesson a week may not be appropriate.  Some lessons may be mastered in a day, and some may take a month.  To make meaningful progress, make instruction a priority.  If you plan to integrate it every day, then in the real world you will likely end up “getting to it” about 5 days a week on average; and this is the frequency of instruction that’s needed.  It doesn’t need to be lengthy – for some activities, even a couple minutes a day makes the difference. 

2. Guide Reading

Have your child read out loud.  Help them identify errors.  Provide clues about where in the word to look or what to think about.  It is ESSENTIAL that you practise single-word reading, not just reading in sentences.  Many children pull from the context and meaning of the sentence to identify words; this is informed guessing (and it is a good strategy!) but they also need how to READ WORDS, which is not always practiced when contextual guessing is taking place.  Use related words that may be more familiar for analogy; look for parts of words that are the same in similar sounding words; examine the structure of words.  Use terminology to build the concepts of literacy, such as “vowel”, “consonant”, and “syllable”.  

3. Hammer Phonemic Awareness skills

As described above, phonemic awareness can be thought of as sound awareness.  In reading, the letters of the alphabet are a coded symbol set to represent sounds.  This is important:  letters represent SOUNDS.  For children that have a disorganized or under-developed sound system, the letter system cannot fully develop UNTIL the sound system is mastered.  The value of working the sound system to mastery cannot be overstated.  In the world of reading, phonemic awareness are the keys to the kingdom – they open the door to letter acquisition and knowledge, as well as sight word storage.  Is your child tripping over “simple” sight words?  Dollars to donuts there is an underlying phonological processing problem, which IS an oral language skill.

In other words, your child cannot read “sight” words because of an underlying language disorder that can usually be resolved with instruction and practise. 


Reading challenges in your child can cause difficulties in school and affect their confidence and social skills. The moment you notice that they exhibit symptoms of reading problems or disorders including those mentioned above, make sure to reach out to a learning center that specializes in reading programs that can address some of the concerns and recommendations posted here.

Boost your child’s reading skills by letting them join our reading program in Calgary. Contact us today to enroll your child!