The Home School Court Report
No. 6

In This Issue


Joey’s World Previous Page Next Page
by Dianne Craft & Faith Berens
- disclaimer -
You Can be Your Child’s Reading Specialist: A Prescriptive Guide

The ability to read and comprehend reading material is essential to academic success. This article is the second half in our series on teaching a struggling reader at home.

Many smart, hardworking children struggle with reading. Rest assured that reading problems can be handled in the homeschool setting very successfully. It is just necessary for the parent/teacher to have some tools.

However, the process of choosing the right tools for your child can be confusing. The first thing you need to know is your student’s specific reading needs and their extent. Understanding this will ensure that precious time is not spent on programs and materials that do not match your child's particular reading needs.

Prescriptive Reading Guide for Parents

In this prescriptive guide, we list the teaching strategies and materials or curricula that many reading specialists have found to work well for each level of struggling readers.

>> Level 1

Children at this level work harder than average at reading, but do not necessarily test much below grade level in individualized testing. Good strategies and curricula to use with this group are:

Here for You

HSLDA’s special needs/struggling learner consultants offer a variety of resources for parents of struggling learners or children with special needs. HSLDA members may contact Faith Berens, Dianne Craft, and Betty Statnick for counsel and suggestions. Call 540-338-5600 or visit our contact webpage.

For helpful resources 24/7 or to sign up for our email newsletter, visit the SN/SL Department’s webpages.

>> Daily individual reading lessons using controlled vocabulary readers and graded readers (versus just library books or trade books). We suggest Pathway Readers and Reading Detective.

>> Extra practice. Computer reading programs are a good option ( and

>> Daily recreational reading practice. Use high-interest, low-vocab books such as High Noon Books or I Can Read leveled readers.

>> Level 2

These children work even harder at reading than those at level 1 and generally test about one year behind in reading. They need more targeted interventions to succeed. Good strategies and curricula are:

>> Daily oral reading, using a graded reader at the child’s instructional grade level (determined from testing). Use the prereading strategy listed for level 3. Making Reading Connections books, graded basal readers, the Specific Skills Series, and the Skill-by-Skill Comprehension Practice series are all good options.

>> Reading fluency training using repeated reading of a familiar story or “echo” reading, which is reading along with a tape.

>> Phonics review not heavily reliant on workbooks. Try the Sing, Spell, Read and Write series, the Right Brain Phonics Program at, and the sites,, and

>> Double dosing in reading lessons—two separate lessons a day. One could be phonics and sight-word review, and the next one could be reading aloud or repeated reading.



>> Level 3

These children work much harder than level 2 struggling readers at learning and mastering the reading process and are often two or more years behind in reading. Frequently we refer to these students as having dyslexia. These struggling children need very specialized methods to help them overcome their reading and writing hurdles.

These children make rapid progress when the reading components are addressed in their daily reading sessions. Good strategies and curricula are:

>> Intensive phonics and phonemic training. The Lindamood Phoneme Sequencing (LiPS) Program, Right Brain Phonics Program, Barton Reading and Spelling System, and Orton-Gillingham phonemic awareness program can be done at home or outsourced at places like Shriners hospitals or Scottish Rite facilities, if available in your area.

>> Daily sight-word practice. Put colors or pictures on the words to help them stick. (See “Understanding Reading Difficulties”.)

>> Daily one-on-one reading instruction using decodable readers. For children struggling with dyslexia, or who are nonreaders or two or more years behind in reading, the best option would be the Merrill Readers ( or For a child who struggles less, decodable readers that introduce sight words and new sounds slowly can be found at

>> “Prereading.” This vitally important practice involves the parent scanning the pages to be read orally by the child, pulling out all the “tricky” words, and writing them on a sheet of paper with a thick, felt-tipped marker. Together, the parent and child practice reading these words before the child even starts reading from the book. HSLDA members can request a free copy of “Daily Lesson Plans for a Struggling Reader,” which provides a daily reading session with a struggling reader or a child or teenager with dyslexia, giving a step-by-step remedial reading schedule that covers all the recommended reading components used by many special education teachers to achieve one and a half to two years’ progress in just one year. Email us through with the subject line "Daily Lesson Plans for Struggling Reader."

>> Daily eye-strengthening exercises to improve left-to-right reading ability and increase reading endurance. Many children benefit from this strategy. Use vision therapy exercises from a local developmental optometrist or from the Brain Integration Therapy Manual by Dianne Craft, or neurodevelopmental exercises by CAN-DO.

Intensity of Instruction

Parents do not need to be intimidated by the thought of teaching a child with dyslexia or other reading struggles at home. They just need to keep in mind several very important points.

>> Traditional reading, writing, and phonics programs may be very good for your other children, but the struggling reader needs very specialized teaching materials and teaching techniques to achieve the reading growth of which he or she is capable.

>> Helping the struggling reader achieve a reading growth of one and a half to two years in one year is the goal. Parents who make this a priority for the year many times forego some other subjects or extracurricular activities, but find that they can achieve reading gains with their child they never thought possible.

>> For children in levels 2 and 3, the daily one-on-one reading/tutoring sessions with the struggling reader need to be done consistently and diligently (four days a week), with the parent leading the session with direct instruction (not independent learning). These sessions need to include all the recommended reading components.

>> Regular assessment is necessary to determine if the reading materials and methods you chose are helping the child make reading “leaps” versus just progress. Every three months, a quick word-reading assessment should be given, as described in the next section.


In order to determine the level of your child’s reading struggle, you can give various tests at home. Some parents would rather have their child tested using outside testing services. Either way will work. For home testing, you can use the rapid test called Quick Word Recognition for Grade Placement. In part 1 of this series, which appeared in the September/October 2011 Court Report, many other sources for home assessment were listed. The individualized, parent-administered Brigance tests are also very popular with parents and can be rented from HSLDA by members to use as an initial assessment.


We hope that this series has encouraged you and provided some helpful teaching/remedial methods. For more information on children who struggle with learning, please visit HSLDA’s struggling learner pages. HSLDA members, learn more about how you can speak personally with a special needs consultant about your struggling learner in the “Here for you” box at the beginning of this article.

About the author

Dianne Craft and Faith Berens are HSLDA special needs/struggling learner consultants.