Guest post: Four tips for partnering with schools to support your struggling reader

The following is the first in a series of regular guest posts by leaders in the field of literacy. This guest post is by Sarah Sayko, deputy director of the National Center on Improving Literacy (NCIL).


If your child is struggling to read, you may wonder, “What can the school do to support my child, and how can I help?”

Schools usually set up a system of learning support. First, they decide what students need to know and do to succeed in each grade. Then, schools teach and assess students so they meet literacy goals. Students who struggle to read are often given added instruction to meet their needs through different levels of support:

  • High quality classroom instruction for all students in each grade. Students who need only this support read and write well and are on track to meet grade level learning goals.
  • Additional small group instruction for some students in each grade.  These students need a boost with extra instruction in targeted skills to be on track to meet grade level learning goals.
  • Specialized small group instruction for a few students in each grade.  These students need intensive, individualized instruction to be on track to meet grade level learning goals.

You and the school can work together by:

  1. Communicating and interacting often: Ask how you can communicate with each other.  Find out how you will receive communication and ask questions if you need more information.
  2. Discussing literacy instruction and intervention: Meet with your child’s teachers to discuss the literacy standards your child is working towards and review the literacy expectations set for your child.  Ask if the instruction and intervention is evidence-based and targets the skills your child needs most.
  3. Practicing literacy skills at home: Talk about what home literacy activities match your child’s skill level. Reading together, helping with homework, and playing games and apps can all provide practice opportunities.
  4. Addressing concerns together: Discuss what your child has learned and what skills she is still working on. Share your understanding of your child’s learning needs. Tell what activities or tasks are giving her trouble at home and how you helped.

Ideally, a comprehensive system of support involves families at all levels.  Learning about the school’s system of support and asking what part families play is a good start.

For more information and resources, see

Sayko PicSarah Sayko is the deputy director of the National Center on Improving Literacy (NCIL). NCIL is a partnership among literacy experts, university researchers, and technical assistance providers, with funding from the United States Department of Education. Our Mission is to increase access to, and use of, evidence-based approaches to screen, identify, and teach students with literacy-related disabilities, including dyslexia. For more information, visit