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Characteristics of children who struggle with reading

Updated: Jun 28, 2021

Reading is a common struggle for students of all ages, including pre-schoolers. Although a dislike to reading may simply be due to boredom - which is discussed in our other article ‘Easy ways to encourage your child's love of reading' - reading difficulties should not be ignored as they can hold back your child from becoming their best in future years.

Some red flags for reading difficulties are:

  • A below-average reading level

  • Difficulty sounding out words

  • Difficulty recognising words

  • A lack of fluency when reading

  • Problems understanding what was just read

  • Problems connecting what is read to previous knowledge

  • Anxiety about reading

  • Avoiding reading altogether

  • Difficulty with spelling and writing

  • Tasks involving reading or writing take an unusually long time to complete

  • Easily distracted when reading All these red flags are discussed more in-depth by Oxford Learning ( so if any of these red flags stand out, this article provides information on what signs to watch for, and how to help change them. The British Dyslexia Association furthermore goes in-depth of signs of dyslexia in the Early Years. The ‘red flags’ or indicators they’ve chosen for early years children are:

  • Difficulty learning nursery rhymes

  • Difficulty paying attention, sitting still, listening to stories

  • Likes listening to stories but shows no interest in letters or words

  • Difficulty learning to sing or recite the alphabet

  • A history of slow speech development

  • Muddles words

  • Difficulty keeping simple rhythm

  • Finds it hard to carry out two or more instructions at one time

  • Forgets names of friends, teachers, colours etc.

  • Difficulty cutting, sticking, and colouring in comparison with their peer group

  • Difficulty in dressing (shoelaces and buttons)

  • Difficulty with catching, kicking, or throwing a ball

  • Often trips, bumps into things, falls over and finds it difficult to skip and hop

If you are worried about your child’s reading and language development, we recommend speaking to your GP or health practitioner. You may also find it helpful to discuss these concerns with your child’s teachers and with the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo). Ducklings is proud that each of our sites has a named SENCo (Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator), as well as TWO company SENCo Managers, Michelle and Becky, who further supports all the sites. Together, these Coordinators and Managers play vital roles in supporting to ensure that a child’s individual needs are met.


Oxford Learning (2018). 11 Characteristics of struggling readers. Accessed on 12th April 2021. [Online]

The British Dyslexia Association (2021). Signs of dyslexia (Early Years). Accessed on 12th April 2021 [Online] .

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