Parental At-Home Support

How can we support our child between tutoring sessions?

After a tutoring session, parents will often ask our tutors, “How can we support our child’s reading between tutoring sessions?”. This blog addresses the strategies needed to best support their child’s multi-sensory reading program between sessions.

Middle and high-school children that struggle with reading benefit from explicit instruction in the same areas used to help younger children. The major difference is that the interventions are adjusted for age and experience. Areas for explicit instruction include: phonemic awareness, word study, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

When it comes to adolescents with reading difficulties, research shows that interventions should consist of the core elements listed below. These are the same interventions used with younger struggling readers, however they are adjusted for age and experience.

Parents can best support their child’s multi-sensory reading instruction by working to improve their child’s fluency. This blog will discuss each of the five critical components to in multi-sensory reading instruction and how parents can help their child’s fluency.

1. Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness is the ability to blend and segment speech sounds (phonemes) in words. Reading is a language-based activity, making phonemic awareness a critical skill. Older struggling readers can benefit from explicit instruction in manipulating speech sounds, transferring this knowledge to reading.



2. Word Study
Students who have difficulty reading must be taught decoding skills, also known as phonics. Although the teaching of phonics continues to be controversial, research shows that skilled readers intuitively decode words, whether they have been taught to do it or not. Older struggling students must be given the tools to sound out unfamiliar words. They require instruction that includes:

  • Sound-symbol relationships. The English language contains 44 sounds, created from 26 letters. Readers must learn the sound(s) associated with each letter and letter combination.
  • Syllable types. Most words adolescents come across when they read contain more than one syllable. Struggling readers need to learn how to break words into syllables and to sound out each of these syllables.
  • Morphology. By learning to dissect words into their meaningful units (morphemes)—roots, prefixes, and suffixes—students become better able to decipher unfamiliar words.
  • Word attack. Students need to be taught that there are certain irregular words that they should not try to decode, such as “some” and “one.”

The above decoding concepts should be integrated with spelling concepts, as decoding and spelling patterns reinforce each other.

Finally, it is critical that older students learn to apply these word-study strategies to academic work, in order to understand content they read in their classes.

3. Fluency
Fluent readers read quickly, accurately, and with appropriate intonation. The decoding process is so skilled and automatic like the snap of a finger, 250 milliseconds from eye to production that it often appears that individual letters or words are skipped. Research shows that is not the case.

In contrast, non-fluent readers read slowly and laboriously, at times in a monotone voice or with punctuation omitted. This impacts comprehension as energy is spent on sounding out words as opposed to thinking about their meaning.

The best way to build fluency is to read as much as possible. This is a challenge when dealing with adolescents who have developed a dislike for reading.

Since many adolescents in multi-sensory reading programs struggle and have developed a dislike for reading, parents should let their child reading out loud a subject of interest that preferably in which the parents have little knowledge.  The parents should be active listeners and let their child read the text to the parents.  If the parents can not follow or comprehend the text.  They should stop the child and ask themselves where is the breakdown in comprehension from one of these five components:  phonemic awareness, word study, fluency, vocabulary, and / or comprehension.  Often, the breakdown leans heavily in fluency and vocabulary.  By parents allowing their child to read to them for twenty minutes a night, parents can help improve their child’s fluency by having them go back and reread parts of a text where there was difficulty in understanding.  This in turn will build a child’s confidence in reading and enjoying reading by making it a part of family time.  

4. Vocabulary
Knowing what words mean is a strong predictor of reading aptitude, affecting the ability to decode, read fluently, and comprehend. Although research regarding how to improve vocabulary is sparse, we do know that vocabulary can be taught via word study, or dissecting words into meaningful components (as described above). But ultimately, the best way to expose adolescents to new words is through reading: older students are exposed to more novel words when reading books, magazines or newspapers than when talking with peers or watching TV. To maintain vocabulary, students must use the words in conversation, writing assignments, etc.

5. Comprehension
Comprehension is the highest-level reading skill, with difficulties attributable to an array of problems, from poor decoding and fluency skills to language comprehension or attention difficulties. The first step in teaching comprehension to a struggling reader is to determine where the comprehension process breaks down. Comprehension strategies must be taught individually and systematically, and include extensive modeling and practice until the student “owns” them and can apply them in isolated situations.

For additional information on multi-sensory reading programs and tutoring, please contact Language to Literacy at  

3 thoughts on “Parental At-Home Support

  1. Ramon

    Ask your child questions (and support them to find the answers) to widen their reading experiences. For example, “What’s the quickest biscuit recipe?”, “What time is the next bus to town?”

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