Strategies, interventions, and activities to improve reading skills in kids with dyslexia, for teachers and parents. This post contains affiliate links.

When Reading Skills Aren’t Clicking

Lauren* sorted cards with -at endings into one pile and -am endings into another pile. Then she read the -at list:

“Bat, cat, sat, …happy?” guessed Lauren.

“Let’s use all the sounds,” I suggested. “H..a..t.”

“Oh, hat!” She got it.

We had gone through this exact same practice exercise each day that week. The words that she missed were different every time.

I was frustrated and I can only guess that she was, too. Word family practice like this had other kids reading long lists of words in no time. But for some reason, it wasn’t clicking for Lauren.

Looking back, I suspect that Lauren had an unidentified language weakness. It may have been dyslexia or some kind of language delay. She needed a different style of teaching.

Since my time with Lauren, I’ve learned a lot through research and collaboration with experts. There are simple interventions to try at school and at home that help kids with dyslexia to build reading skills.

What Is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a learning disability caused by a difference in how the brain processes language. People with dyslexia may have difficulty with:

  • hearing the different sounds in words
  • memorizing letters and their sounds
  • spelling
  • reading fluently

Dyslexia is not related to intelligence. People with dyslexia can be very smart. It’s not a curable condition but interventions can help people with dyslexia improve their reading skills.

The following techniques are based on research about what is most helpful for people with dyslexia.

Sound Boxes for Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness refers to the ability to hear and manipulate individual sounds (or phonemes) within words.

Kids with dyslexia usually have weak phonemic awareness and this impacts their ability to read and spell words.

Sound boxes are one technique for boosting phonemic awareness. Here’s how to use them:


You can draw sound boxes on a piece of paper. The sound box activities in the video come from the book Learn to Read for Kids With Dyslexia.


Arm Tapping Technique

This strategy is another way to build up phonemic awareness. It gives a visual, kinesthetic, and auditory representation of sounds in a word.

Multi-Sensory Instruction

For kids with dyslexia, information about letters and sounds may not “stick” when taken in through only one of the senses. Using more than one sense at a time helps kids to form neurological pathways that connect speech sounds with print. Building these pathways helps kids retain what they have learned about reading.

Multi-sensory instruction for letters and sounds can look like this:

This activity comes from Learn to Read for Kids with Dyslexia


Activities for Manipulating Sounds

The ability to manipulate sounds is a higher level phonemic awareness concept. “The Name Game” song (Shirley, Shirley, bo birley, banana fana fo firley) is a classic example of sound manipulation. The first sound of the name is changed to several other sounds. While this seems like a silly song or game, it involves identifying and changing the first sound of the name. The ability to manipulate sounds in this manner involves language skill.

Here’s an example of an exercise for manipulating the middle sound in a word:

This activity comes from Learn to Read for Kids with Dyslexia


Highlighting Phonics Patterns

Kids with dyslexia need to be explicitly told the rules of phonics. They are not likely to deduce or generalize these on their own.

One way to identify and memorize a phonics pattern is to highlight it in words.

For example, in the picture below, the child has colored examples of the consonant-vowel-consonant-e (CVCe) pattern in words. In words with the CVCe pattern, the first vowel usually makes its long sound and the e is usually silent. Rules like these help kids make sense of letters and sounds.


This activity is from Learn to Read for Kids with Dyslexia

Another way to do this activity is to trace over the pattern while making the associated sound.


Slow and Steady Wins the Race

All of the ideas above will be most effective when practiced with many different sounds and words over time. Don’t expect a quick fix.

As you carry out interventions for a child with dyslexia, provide the following:

  • frequent review
  • opportunities for over-learning (practice beyond mastery)
  • clear explanation of phonics rules
  • patience
  • praise


*name changed to protect privacy


5 Simple Ways to Help Kids With Dyslexia - quick strategies, interventions, and activities to improve reading skills, helpful for teachers and parents #dyslexia #teachingreading #intervention

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Hannah Braun
Hannah Braun
Hannah Braun is a former teacher with 8 years of experience in the classroom and a master's degree in early childhood education. She designs engaging, organized classroom resources for 1st-3rd grade teachers.