Dyslexic kids absolutely need research-based instruction or else they may not learn how to read at all. How do you identify a dyslexic child? Give him research-based instruction and see how quickly he progresses. If the child progresses quickly, he likely does not have dyslexia. If he progresses slowly, he likely has dyslexia. Unfortunately, many struggling readers have not received researched-based instruction at all. Someone who knows how to teach a dyslexic child to read (or any child for that matter) will use leveled texts, phonics books for beginners and explicit, systematic phonics instruction with interleaving. I’ll review what each of these are.
Leveled texts are when the child reads with 92-97% accuracy.
All kids need leveled texts, but when you’re thinking of how to teach a dyslexic child to read, you must ensure that he reads within this 92-97% accuracy range. At the lower range, this means he reads 92 out of 100 words correctly. At the upper range, he reads 97 out of 100 words correctly. This is called his instructional reading level. At this level, he must read with a more advanced reading partner.
If you want your student to read independently, then make sure he’s reading with 98% accuracy or above.
If you want your dyslexic student to read on his own, give him a text wherein his accuracy rate is 98 out of 100 words (or better).
Teach beginning readers with phonics books.
Most companies wrongly advertise their K-2 books as phonics books. How do you identify true phonics books? I’ve provided a checklist. Real phonics books:
- Do not repeat the same sentence over and over.
- Are not guessable.
- Do not allow the picture to cue the student. The picture is simply there for entertainment.
Use systematic phonics instruction.
Systematic means you introduce one sound at a time. Allow the student to learn the new sound to mastery, then introduce another.
A dyslexic student might learn short a and read words like map, cap, tan, ran…etc. When he gets good at reading short a words, he can read short i words like him, rim, nip, tip…etc. He proceeds in this manner–learning one sound at a time–until he knows the entire English spelling system.
Reading Elephant books introduce sounds in the following order: short vowels, consonant digraphs, consonant blends, silent e, long vowels… etc. Each book has a focus sound to help guide the teacher.
Explicitly introduce new sound patterns.
In explicit phonics lessons, the teacher directly teaches sound-symbol correlations. The teacher might write /ea/ on the board and say: “/ea/ says eeee as in sea, seal and team.” The teacher does not encourage guesswork at all. Instead, he directly tells the student the code and shows clear examples.
If you want your dyslexic child to build a lasting, strong reading foundation, use interleaving.
Interleaving is a critical part of k-2 reading instruction, yet it’s often left out of the conversation. Currently, most reading programs (whether they have phonics or not) do not incorporate interleaving. What is interleaving? It’s mixed practice: your student studies old and new phonics sounds so he cannot guess.
The following wordlist does NOT use interleaving: bean, mean, team, seal, tea, real, teal, heal, wean, dean, lean. This wordlist encourages bad guessing habits. Your student will not analyze the sound-symbol correlations, because he knows that /ea/ is always the vowel.
In contrast, a wordlist with interleaving will incorporate sound patterns the student learned in the past: bean, kite, can, team, web, pipe, seal, fit, tea, dine, lean. Notice how the student must analyze the sound-symbol correlations to figure out the vowel. This list will create lasting success.
How to teach a dyslexic child to read:
- Use leveled texts.
- Teach beginning readers with phonics books.
- Teach phonics sounds explicitly.
- Use systematic phonics: introduce one sound pattern at a time. Allow your student to practice to mastery.
- Use interleaving or mixed practice. Make sure your student reviews old material with new phonics sounds.
For printable phonics books for beginning readers, check out our shop.