Common Causes of Literacy Issues in Students

Reading is both a joy and an everyday necessity. In many ways, the better a person can read, the richer a life they will lead. Reading informs, educates, and entertains. But what makes a good reader? Which literacy skills can impact a person’s ability to read well?

The answer comes down to five key areas:

  1. Phonemic awareness: the ability to identify and manipulate individual sounds in spoken words.
  2. Alphabetic principle: understanding there are systematic and predictable relationships between written letters and spoken sounds.
  3. Applying reading skills in a rapid and fluent manner.
  4. A strong vocabulary coupled with syntactic and grammatical skills.
  5. Good comprehension and the ability to relate reading to our own experiences.

The good news is that all of these areas can be acquired and improved. That means everyone can become a stronger reader. Most of the skills are learned and developed in a classroom. Some, such as phonemic awareness, could be impacted by a learning disability. This scenario can also be supported with proper literacy instruction and curriculum. If challenges do appear in the acquisition of these skills, literacy assessment is a good way to diagnose the depth of the issue.

Literacy Challenges Students Face When Learning to Read

No one is born knowing how to read. That’s because reading is a learned skill. As it is with any skill, each student will face challenges and require different supports. But what challenges might a student face as they learn to read? The list can be extensive, but there are a handful of common and predictable reasons.

Literacy challenges often begin with phonemic awareness which leads to challenges with decoding—the ability to sound out written words and recognize familiar word parts. Issues with decoding are commonly associated with dyslexia.

Some students have a difficult time understanding what is being read. This situation can occur when the mechanical process of reading is a challenge, and/or when the ability to visualize and conceptualize language and information is not natural.

Of course, other factors might impact a student’s ability to read. These include learning disabilities, having limited English language skills, limited access to books, and a school’s ability to meet each student’s reading challenges.

The reasons can be many, but, none of the factors are insurmountable. Learning to read may not be easy for everyone, but everyone can learn to read. The better each student’s literacy challenges are recognized and addressed, the easier the path can become for them.

Literacy Testing: Opportunities to Improve Student Reading

It’s never too early to help a student address literacy challenges. Providing early support creates a positive experience, while also improving self-esteem and confidence.

How might you help your child become a better reader? Here are a few ideas.

Diagnostic Assessment

If your child is struggling, we suggest families begin by scheduling a diagnostic learning assessment for their child. It’s a comprehensive psychoeducational evaluation conducted by a trained psychologist. It identifies if a student has a learning disability and provides a diagnosis. For example, a diagnostic assessment can include testing that might reveal challenges with phonemic awareness which could lead to a diagnosis of Dyslexia. If you are interested in a diagnostic assessment, connect with the Learning Center at Groves Academy®.

IEP or 504 Plan

A diagnostic assessment is often just the first step. You may want to consider supports such as an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan that can be available to students through their school district and are required under the law if a student qualifies. The two options are designed to support the individualized academic needs of students at different levels of intensity.

An IEP is a detailed document outlining the support and accommodations a student is required to receive from their school. It also lists goals and how progress will be measured. Families must partner with their school and district to confirm if a student qualifies for an IEP and a formal diagnostic assessment is a key component of this.

A 504 plan outlines accommodations that a school agrees to provide to address a student’s unique challenges. A 504 Plan can be the first step on the path to a formal IEP, or, it is something that can be put in place if a student does not meet the criteria for an IEP but still needs a measure of individualized attention and help.


Another beneficial option is customized tutoring. Ideally, to improve literacy, this should be individualized instruction with a Reading Specialist. We find using an individualized approach to reading, based on the science of learning, is extremely helpful. It empowers the student as they learn to read. Ideally, students attend individualized tutoring sessions several times a week for a number of months. This level of intensity is critical to making permanent changes in how the brain processes words on the page.

Specialized School

All students can learn to read when given the proper literacy support, instruction, and curriculum. For some students, this means attending a specialized school.

A specialized school supports kids with learning disabilities. For many students, attending a specialized school is a joy. It may be their first time succeeding in a classroom and among their peers. Some students spend the entirety of their academic youth at a specialized school. Other students may only attend for a year or two. Like literacy tutoring, specialized schools succeed by providing an individualized approach to each student’s learning style connected directly to a curriculum based in the science of reading, and an environment designed for their neurodiversity.

Every Student Can Learn To Read With The Right Literacy Supports

Groves Academy is committed to helping students learn to read. We know that students can flourish by using techniques rooted in science.

The ability to read—and read well—is not an area where parents should compromise. Expect the best for your child by surrounding them with the people and offerings that support their learning style. It is never too late to start, and it is never too late to improve. Every student can be—and deserves to be—a strong reader. If you’d like to begin improving your child’s reading skills, or learn more about diagnostic testing, reach out to the Learning Center At Groves Academy®.

Groves Academy is a nonprofit educational organization working to redefine the way our nation is taught, one student, one teacher, one school at a time. We have a rich history of supporting bright students who struggle with learning disabilities and attention disorders as well as promoting evidence-based literacy instruction for all.

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Daniel Morgan | President
Dan Morgan grew up in Madison, Wisc., and even after seven major relocations in the past 25 years, he remains a proud midwesterner. Upon completing his education at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Dan moved to San Diego, and launched right into his education career. He was fortunate enough to be trained in dyslexia and LD instruction and assessment by Patricia Lindamood, and spent the next 14 years at Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes working with students across the world, and across the whole spectrum of neurodiversity. In 2011, Dan shifted his career to Fusion Education Group and worked for more than 8 years developing and expanding their network of unique private schools designed for students who do not fit the traditional paradigm of education. Dan helped lead Fusion on an incredible growth trajectory, launching over 30 schools across the country in four years.
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