Help and Adviceteaching strategies for reading difficulties

Types of Reading Difficulties 

Author Justin Clark, Reading and Learning Difficulties Tutor in Brisbane.

The nature of reading difficulties or reading disabilities (such as dyslexia) for struggling readers is complex.

Recent research suggests that the complexity in the nature of reading difficulties stems from the wide range of individual differences present amongst those with reading difficulties such as dyslexia.  Struggling readers demonstrate a combination of both poor decoding and poor comprehension skills, while others experience more pronounced difficulties in other areas such as vocabulary or language skills.  In a comparison of the reading abilities of students with early and late emerging reading disabilities, Leach, Scarborough and Rescorda (2003) identified three types of readers:

(a) those with difficulties at the phonological level but not with comprehension,

(b) those with difficulties in comprehension but not with phonological processing and

(c) those with difficulties in both phonological processing and comprehension.

Reading Difficulties Does Not Necessarily Mean Comprehension Difficulties

These findings challenged two common assumptions about reading disability, with the first being reading problems amongst these type of readers always stem from a phonological deficit.  The second challenged the assumption that all students with dyslexia struggle with comprehension.

Comprehension Difficulties Too Are Complex

As a result, this leads us away from the all-or-nothing perspective to an understanding that the explanations for impaired reading comprehension are as varied as the readers themselves.  Furthermore, a better understanding of the profiles of individuals with reading difficulties such as students with dyslexia leads to multiple pathways in resolving comprehension difficulties.

Teaching Strategies for Comprehension Difficulties

The understanding of profiles is crucial when considering classroom interventions and teaching strategies to enhance narrative comprehension.  Narratives should not simply be about producing a text, but also about the storytelling event itself.  The performance aspect of narrative suggests that narrative cannot exist outside the culture of the storytelling event.  Children’s narrative development must not only provide opportunity for them to reproduce the structural components of the narrative, but also account for the cultural and sociolinguistic aspects of the storytelling perspectives in terms of evaluation.

Teaching strategies for students with reading difficulties such as students with dyslexia should build on prior knowledge of topics and themes, along with focusing on questions asked during and after reading.  These questions include inferential questions, prediction questions, questions on important ideas and questions about the multiple interpretations of the text.  For example, strategies that focus on the ability to decode text might target phonemic awareness, phonics, or fluency.  Interventions aimed at oral language skills might foster syntactical use of retelling of the story.

Therefore, while narrative comprehension is challenging for those with learning difficulties such as students with dyslexia, interventions should focus on teaching students strategies involving visualisation, summarisation, monitoring comprehension and recognising story grammar elements and themes.

Interventions should also focus on opportunities for students to engage in dialogic peer discussions of texts which also fosters learning engagement.  These contexts involve students engaging in social and cognitive processes in which they are asked thoughtful, meaningful questions and brought up issues they felt would help them understand the text better.  This process is also about students working collaboratively to understand the text.

Providing instructional spaces and contexts in which students can actively participate in meaningful constructions fosters similar growth as instructional interventions that feature more explicit instruction.  Programs and interventions must be comprehensive and multifaceted that incorporate the wide range of individual differences in meeting the needs of those with reading difficulties.


As teachers we too learn all the time how we can best help children with reading difficulties and/or comprehension difficulties.  As a ‘learning difficulties tutor‘ or ‘reading tutor’ it is a vital part of my job to keep up-to-date on the latest research and insights into learning difficulties that children have and the best teaching strategies for each individual type of difficulty that a child and children may have in learning, particularly in reading, writing and comprehension.  If you child is experiencing difficulties with reading or has been diagnosed with a reading disability I would welcome the opportunity to help you child, boost their abilities, hence their confidence and happiness by tutoring them using the strategies that they learn best with.

reading difficulties

Justin Clark, Learning Difficulties Tutor in Brisbane



Leach, J. M., Scarborough, H. S., & Rescorda, L. (2003) Late emerging reading disabilities. Journal of Educational Psychology, 95(2), 211-224.