How to improve the difficulties of children in reading

The main objective that is presented to children when they access the school system is learn to read and write. Soon they will pass from this, to read to write and learn, which implies that the skills related to the written language they are tools that must necessarily be handled with dexterity from an early age, since they are essential for future academic success as well as for professional development.

To understand how can we improve the difficulties of children in reading, it is necessary to know how they learn to distinguish the possible deficiencies of children when learning to read.


Understand language and recognize words

The mechanisms of reading consist of two main components: recognition of written words and understanding of language.

1. Recognition of written words. To learn to read it is necessary to decode the alphabetic code, that is, to see the letters as sound signals and not as images, learning the grapheme-phoneme correspondence rules and automating the relationship between the visual and the phonological. The characteristics of this recognition, essential for reading well, are that it be carried out with precision, speed and expressiveness.


In this phase, children often make mistakes due to confusion, inversion, omission or addition of phonemes; changes of syllables or words; syllabication, repetitions or hesitations; as well as writing in a mirror. All these are symptoms of inexperienced reading that, although they are normal at the beginning of the learning process of literacy, if they persist over time they can become a problem and lead, among other disorders, to dyslexia.

There is a broad consensus that the origin of these difficulties lies in deficiencies in segmental, suprasegmental phonological processing and in the rise time of sounds; since children with reading disorders or dyslexia make mistakes or are slow in phonological awareness tasks (manipulate letters, syllables and word fragments), name colors, objects, remember lists and classify words, follow rhythmic patterns and even recognize sounds and voices. All this is due to the fact that they have developed non-specific phonological representations, with added prosodic deficits, which prevent a correct connection between graphemes and phonemes.


2. Reading comprehension. Other children have difficulties when it comes to understanding what they read, they keep the superficial or literal part of the texts and can not make the necessary inferences to follow the argument with fluency. It is believed that these difficulties are due to linguistic problems in high level functions, such as semantics (meaning of words), lexical (vocabulary) and grammar (morphology and syntax). In addition, the problems to extract inferences are related to the scarcity of previous knowledge, the difficulty for the logical reasoning and the connection of these knowledge to each other, and the metacognitive control of the understanding.

Keys to improve children's difficulties with reading

These two major components of reading give rise to different difficulties with different origins, whose treatment must be differentiated. A typical program of activities to be carried out to improve these difficulties is grouped into four categories:

1. Improvement of phonological processes: phonological awareness skills

2. Rhythmic and musical training: multimodal intervention with linguistic and non-linguistic elements

3. Reader training: fluency and reading speed, reading aloud, reading to two voices, vocabulary, previous knowledge, recognition of the structure and characters of texts.

4. Metacognitive training: verbal and logical reasoning, metacognition skills.

Psychopedagogical keys to improve children's reading

To improve the response capacity of children with reading difficulties, there are teaching factors to consider:

1. Early and preventive. The children's period is the best time to detect and tackle the difficulties, the accumulated failure of several years is difficult to trace.

2. Explicit.Children learn according to patterns they extract from the environment, imitating language and drawing conclusions about causality, what is called implicit learning (by observation). Several studies indicate that children with dyslexia have problems for implicit learning, for this reason the intervention should make explicit what they should learn.

3. Intensive. To be effective, the intervention must be individualized to the maximum, be regular, provide daily attention and use multisensory modalities.

4. Emotional. Do not forget the emotional aspects, especially self-esteem, motivation and perseverance; The collaboration of the family to extend the activities, games and reading habit to the home environment is also important.

In this way, we offer children with learning and literacy development difficulties, the right tools so that they can become competent people in this skill so necessary for their future life.

Ana Barrantes. Teacher of Primary Education. Author of the blog Neuropsychology and Learning

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