Helping children who are becoming frustrated with reading (Levels 1-5).

Does this sound like your child?


  • They used to love books.
  • They used to love telling stories in their own words and pretending to be reading.
  • They used to have favourite books they would continually want you to read.
  • They know letters make sounds and may even recognise some letters and connect them to their most common sound.
  • Now, they are easily frustrated with trying to sound out every word in a book and are beginning to dislike reading.

Reluctant Reader

Put yourself in your child’s shoes.

Imagine reading books which are written in a foreign language. You were loving reading, looking at the pictures, holding the book and turning pages correctly, telling a great story about what is happening in the book without reading any of the individual words.

Then…. you are told that letters make sounds, and you need to know these sounds to read books.
You are given books with limited words and asked to read these.

Frustrating and slow process for many children.


English is a difficult language to learn. There are 26 letters in the alphabet which make over 44 different sounds using over 200 different letter combinations.

Books are rarely filled with words which can be sounded out using only each letters Most Common Sound.

How to help

  • Ensure you are using the correct pronunciation for each sound – begin with the Most Common Sounds of the 26 letters of the alphabet.
  • When talking or helping your child read and write, be consistent with the words you use to connect sounds and letters, ie. /b/ as in bus, /c/ as in cat. Use a most common sounds alphabet chart or make your own alphabet chart for your child to use for reference.
  •  Beginning readers and writers use short vowel sounds, ensure you are consistent with the sound /e/ as in egg, not as in elephant or emu.
  • Explain words are broken up into sounds. Some of these are easier than others. For example – mat – /m/ /a/ /t/ – 3 letters and 3 sounds. While others, for example, play – /p/ /l/ /ay/  4 letters and 3 sounds. This is confusing, however it helps a child to know, that all words can be broken up into sounds and as they progress as readers and writers they will learn these sounds.
  • Give your child plenty of chance for success. Let your child see themselves as readers by giving them words which can be successfully sounded out.
  • Have reminders available when your child is trying to connect letters to the most common sounds they represent – for example an alphabet strip or alphabet chart. When your child sees the word ‘mat’ they may remember the m sound, the a sound then become confused with the t sound. Show them a picture which represents the /t/ sound such as tiger and say, ‘Remember the letter t makes the sound /t/ as in tiger.
  • Have a list of common words such as the 12 most used words (and, is, it, in, was, the, said, I, to, be, of, that) around the house for your child to practice reading. These 12 words make up 25% of all written words in the English language.


Beginning readers need to be introduced to books they are reading. Books which are levelled 1-5 are written with the intent of assistance with an adult prior to a child reading them.

Look at the front cover and discuss what you think the book will be about.

Read the book through with your child first – pointing to each word as it is said.

Make connections between the pictures and the words they represent.

Talk about the beginning, middle and end of the book.

When your child reads the book on their own, they may be memorising the pattern and using picture clues rather than reading each word. This is okay. This is great for fluency and comprehension.

Sentences are repetitive in early readers for a reason. To help progress your child on from memorising sentences, ask them to point to individual words.

For example:

Can you find the word which begins with the sound /b/ on the page?

Can you find the word ‘and’ on the page?

This will help them recognise and realise they can read individual words.

Reading should be fun. Take-home readers should be easy for your child as they practice their fluency and comprehension.

Stages of reading words

I have worked with many older students who struggle with reading and writing.  This is often due to missing some of the early stages of reading words. They learnt to read by sight rather than understand the process of letters represents sounds which when blended together form words. Obviously there are some exceptions when we look at words from different languages integrated into our English language, however but for beginning readers we will keep with these stages.

  • Individual letters represent individual sounds – most common sounds
  • Blend most common sounds together to form words (CVC words) cat, dog, mat, hat, pin, sun, fun, pet


  • Two consonants can be blended together – CCVC CVCC flat, spat, bend
  • Two consonants can make one sound – digraphs (th, ch, sh) that, shut, chip

Once they are at this stage, they will begin to realise there are many, many words which can not be simply sounded out. Try to avoid the use of the words ‘sight words’.

Let your child know that this word maybe a ‘tricky’ word as it uses lots of different letters to represent sounds. Let them know they will learn these new sounds and letters as they ‘get bigger’ ‘in grade 5’ ‘read more’ – use words which suit your own child.

  • Depending on your child, they may begin to realise the letter c can make a /s/ sound or y can make an i sound.
  • They may be introduced to long vowel sounds such as the long a uses a variety of letter combinations such as-  ai as in paid, ay as in pay, eigh as in eight, a-e as in made, ey as in they, and single a as in acorn

The important step to realise is breaking words into sounds. This is crucial for both reading and writing development. Let your child progress at their own rate. Reading and writing is about ‘Stages not Ages’. If your chid is frustrated, go back a stage and regain their confidence in their ability to be a reader or writer.

5 parts of being an effective reader

Remember there are 5 parts of being an effective reader:





Phonemic Awareness

A more detailed understanding of the 5 areas above can be found in my book, ‘Your Child’s First Reader’. This also includes the first reader, ‘Where is Teddy?’ and reading and writing activity sheets.

As you can see, this is a large topic and without individually assessing your child or without more detailed information on an individual child it is hard to give specific information. Feel free to message me with individual concerns.

If you feel your child is not developing at an expected rate then a few ideas are:

  • hearing and eyesight tested
  • speak to your child’s educator
  • assess which area your child is delayed in, just reading or overall delay in other areas of their development
  • speak to your local doctor

Another article which may interest you, focuses on how to regain your child’s confidence in their reading ability, titled

No books, reading challenge. For struggling, reluctant or beginning readers.

Helping struggling readers who hate reading.


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