Reading Difficulties in Students: What Does It Mean to be a Struggling Reader?

Reading Difficulties in Students: What Does It Mean to be a Struggling Reader? - Tutor CPS

As with most learning difficulties, reading difficulties manifest differently in each student. For students who struggle with reading, everything related to school and learning can feel like climbing a mountain without ever reaching the top. There is simply no way around it: all school subjects require some form of reading, even math!  

For parents of struggling readers, it is not always clear what exactly it is about reading that causes their child to have difficulties. Not knowing can leave parents feeling uncertain and discouraged about how best to support their child.  

But all hope is not lost! The key to supporting a student with reading difficulties is to better understand the different profiles of struggling readers. 

Typical Profiles of Struggling Readers 

Most struggling readers fit into one of the following three reading profiles. 


Reading fluency depends on how well a person can decode text. Decoding refers to the ability to make sense of and understand the relationship between letters and their matching sounds. For example, the sounds “buh,” “aah,” and “guh” make the word “bag.” A reader who struggles with decoding will have trouble sounding out word like “bag” because they are unable to identify which sounds matches which letter, or even identify the sounds themselvesStudents in this profile have normal to high levels of comprehension, which means that with the assistance of a reader, they can still understand words. 


Reading comprehension is the ability to understand and interpret what is read. A reader who struggles with reading comprehension can find the meaning of words or even whole sentences confusing. They also may not be able to determine which part of the text is important, or struggle to remember what they read. Students in this profile can read fluently and have a good understanding that certain letters are associated with certain sounds. They can therefore sound out words easily and read through text quickly. 


Students in this profile are those who struggle the most with readingThey struggle both with decoding and with understanding what they have read, and will need the most support.  

So, for any parents reading: which of these three reading profiles best describes your struggling reader? Once you have an idea of where they best fit, it can be much easier to tailor the academic support to your child’s specific needs.  

Keep an eye out for future posts where we will discuss concrete ways to help improve reading fluency and comprehension, as well as suggest other helpful reading strategies to put your struggling reader on the path to reading success!