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The Best Phonics  Tutor Blog

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

Expert tutor blog with hot tips for supporting your KS1 child-phonics, reading, writing and tutoring.

Kara Cook-Primary Tutor & Phonics Expert
Kara-Primary Tutor

Hi! I'm Kara. I am an expert phonics tutor, reading specialist and

an experienced primary teacher. I love helping children learn to read and write!

Stay tuned for more blogs about phonics, reading and early literacy here!

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Dyslexia & Other Literacy Challenges:

Recognising and Helping Early Readers

at home & school

Welcome back to my 3-part series: Dyslexia & Other Literacy Challenges. In Part 1, we explored the early signs of literacy challenges in our budding young readers.

In Part 2 "Empowering Early Readers: Navigating Literacy Challenges and Dyslexia" we'll be diving deeper to explore the six vital signs, with a special focus on dyslexia. Join me as we uncover the secrets to empowering these young literary explorers!

A Guide for Parents: 6 Ways to Spot Dyslexia & Other Literacy Challenges in Your Early Reader (part 2)

Let's continue our journey by understanding these signs and discovering ways to support our budding readers both at home and school. Here are 6 essential tips to understand the early warning signs of struggling readers.

1. Reading Isn't Always Smooth

As young readers advance to short phrases or sentences, the ones on the dyslexia spectrum will be unlikely to read them fluently. That's because all their mental energy goes into sounding out words, preventing them from reading automatically, and therefore easily, like skilled readers.

When this happens, fluent reading is too hard or it isn't happening. This is often noted in the first term of Reception when reading instruction becomes more formal.

2. Mistaking Similar-Looking Words

Dyslexic readers often confuse similar-looking words by reading one word as another. Frequent occurrences could hint at dyslexia. One of the reasons for this is just the effort of reading words, and effortful processes are prone to mistakes. Another reason is that dyslexic learners often do not comprehend what they read and so similar-looking words become interchangeable because that process of "hold on, this doesn't make sense, let me read that again" doesn't kick in for dyslexic learners.

3. Trouble with Irregular Words

Early readers learn to sound out words, like c-a-t/cat, as the first strategy they are taught. But with so many irregular words in the English language, children find this strategy is not always helpful as it doesn't always work. There are those "sight words" or "tricky words" like here and some and once that are impossible to sound out-they need to be read in one go, automatically.

Children who persistently try to sound out these words are relying on the only strategy they know, and this can be an indication of dyslexia.

4. Putting in Extra Effort

Some children put in extra effort and work so much harder than everyone else to compensate for their difficulties, but only get poor to average results. This can be where dyslexia can affect their mental health and self-esteem.

If this describes your child, it is essential to provide support.

Also, be alert to when your child puts in incredible levels of hard work but gets about the same results as the children who are not on the dyslexia spectrum.

That level of effort is exhausting and is hard to maintain, especially as work gets harder. In this case, if your child is assessed, the results are often at the lower end of the spectrum but not low enough for a "diagnosis" of dyslexia.

5. Reading Without Full Comprehension

"Fluent" reading doesn't always mean full comprehension. Some young readers decode words efficiently but struggle to grasp the content. It's crucial to differentiate between reading and understanding.

These children fall into the group on the dyslexia spectrum who are called "poor comprehenders" and while this tends to show up a bit later in the journey of learning to read, it's one to watch out for. It's those learners who read fluently but fail to comprehend what they have read. This is because all of their effort is used for reading words so there is no capacity left over to understand what they have read. It's easy to mistake fluent reading for reading with understanding, but they are often very different things.

6. Family History Matters

Dyslexia is genetic and often runs in families. According to about 40 percent of siblings of kids with dyslexia also have reading challenges. Additionally, as many as 49 percent of their parents do, too.

Exactly how genetics leads to dyslexia is complex and not fully understood yet. As a result, it may skip a generation, or it may only show up in one child and not their siblings.

Because it was not fully recognised until fairly recently, clues are that older relatives might share negative stories of their school struggles due to unrecognised difficulties. The chances are that they did not go into jobs that require lots of reading and writing. Recognising these patterns in family history can be a vital clue for identifying dyslexia in younger children. Once you know what you are looking for, it all falls into place pretty easily.

Understanding the early indicators of struggling readers is like discovering hidden treasures in the realm of literacy. That is why taking proactive steps can significantly impact a child's literacy development. In our final blog part, I’ll reveal practical strategies and valuable resources to champion children with literacy differences, ensuring their success in reading and writing. Stay tuned for more!

Are you concerned about your child's literacy development or suspect they may have dyslexia?

Does your child come home from school tearful because their peers are so much better at reading?

This kind of anxiety and pressure will turn them away from reading for good if you don't take action to support them.

Good news, I can help! As an experienced online reading tutor, I am trained to identify the signs of dyslexia and other literacy challenges and provide tailored support.

Let's work together to empower your young reader. Reach out to me for guidance and support on your journey.

Email me at or book a call to get started.

Your child's literacy success is just a click away!

A guide for parents to use to spot their young learner's literacy difficulties.

Unlocking Early Reader Potential: 5 Key Signs of Dyslexia and Other Literacy Challenges-Part 1

As a parent, your child's journey into literacy lays the crucial foundation for their education.

Are you wondering how to identify early reading and writing challenges and what signs to watch out for? This is the guide for you! Explore this blog to learn proactive steps to ensure your child becomes a confident and proficient reader and writer. Keep reading to find out more!

5 Ways to Spot Dyslexia & Other Literacy Challenges in Your Early Reader

A Guide for Parents: Spotting Dyslexia and Literacy Challenges in your young reader

Early Intervention: Reading Challenges & Dyslexia

As children embark on their journey into literacy, it's crucial for educators and parents alike to be vigilant in recognising any signs of difficulties that might hinder the progress of their beginner reader(s). Early intervention is key to helping these young learners overcome dyslexia and other literacy challenges, and build a strong foundation in reading and writing. In this first part of our blog series, we'll explore some common indicators that can help you spot dyslexia and literacy challenges in your child as they start their reading journey.

Signs of Dyslexia and Literacy Challenges in your young reader 1. Slow Progress

1. Slow Progress

One of the earliest warning signs is slow progress. While all children receive the same teaching in a classroom, some children may struggle to retain what they've learned, or they will need frequent refreshers to help them remember it.

Sometimes teachers, and or you, as a parent may notice your beginner reader struggles with certain concepts, such as the connection between letters and their corresponding sounds.

It’s when you get that feeling of “it’s just not sticking” that alarm bells ring.

This difficulty can become clear right from the beginning when your child is introduced to letters and their matching sounds in their phonics lessons. If your child sees a letter but can't recall the sound it makes, even after it has been taught and revised, it may be a cause for concern.

Signs of Dyslexia and Literacy Challenges in your young reader  2. Difficulty reading short words.

2. Difficulty Reading Short Words

The first step in reading is sounding out words, such as "c-a-t" for "cat." However, children on the dyslexia spectrum may struggle with this fundamental skill. Some may only remember the last sound, resulting in them saying a word that starts with the final sound.

Others might find the letters in a word meaningless and have difficulty starting the process of sounding it out.

Skilled readers typically sound out a word a few times and then read it automatically, without needing to sound it out repeatedly. If your child takes longer than their peers to sound out a word, it could be an indication of difficulties related to dyslexia, as reading is not becoming automatic for them.

Signs of Dyslexia and Literacy Challenges in your young reader  3. Flipping letters when writing

3. Flipping Letters When Writing

Letter-flipping is a normal occurrence for most children as they begin to learn how to write. Even though it is universally the most recognised sign of dyslexia, flipping letters doesn't mean a young learner is dyslexic.

However, it is a definite cause for concern, if a child continues to struggle with letter-flipping, long after others have outgrown it, especially after receiving letter formation and handwriting training.

Handwriting training, particularly in joined-up writing, can be particularly beneficial for poor spellers. That's because joined-up writing develops muscle memory which is instinctive, so writing and making correct word formations becomes more automatic, like riding a bike.

Signs of Dyslexia and Literacy Challenges in your young reader  4. Difficulty writing short words.

4. Difficulty Writing Short Words

Difficulty writing short words can manifest in two distinct ways. First, some learners may struggle to connect letters and sounds, resulting in seemingly random combinations of letters when attempting to write words. Second, erratic and varied spelling mistakes, where the same simple word is written in multiple inconsistent ways, may indicate dyslexia.

However, mistakes that demonstrate an understanding of spelling patterns but need more practice are not indicative of dyslexia.

Signs of Dyslexia and Literacy Challenges in your young reader  5. Rules don't work.

5. Rules Don't Work

Dyslexic learners often struggle with rule-based spelling instruction because these rules can feel abstract to their brains. For instance, rules like the "magic e" rule might not be helpful to them. Specialised teaching methods tailored to dyslexic learners can be invaluable as they move away from rule-based literacy learning toward a more personalised approach that emphasises understanding through meaning, rather than rigid rule-following.

Dyslexic learners may either over-apply spelling rules that they don't apply or create their own rules to navigate language. Alternative ways of teaching spelling include using a multi-sensory approach, mnemonic devices word chunking, and SACAWAC (see, and cover, and write, and check).

In the second part of this blog series, I will share more signs of literacy difficulties in young learners and discuss strategies to support these children effectively in their literacy development. Stay tuned for next week's blog!

Literacy & Dyslexia Support for Your Child

It's challenging to juggle the roles of teacher and parent, especially when it comes to supporting your child's reading and writing struggles at home.

Imagine having a dedicated tutor by your side, someone with the training and experience to provide valuable insights into your child's progress. That's precisely what I can offer you.

Book a call with a phonics tutor.

Tailored Online Learning

Hi, I'm Kara, a phonics tutor and reading specialist with experience working with children ages 4-11. I specialise in assessing your child's reading, writing and spelling abilities, tailoring support that's just right for them and supporting literacy challenges as needed.

With my monthly progress reports, you'll stay informed about their development every step of the way.

Let's have a chat today to explore how I can support your child's literacy journey.

Click here to book a call with me.

Together, we can help your child unlock their full potential in reading and writing.

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