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How to help my 7-year-old read better?

It is very concerning to see your child celebrate a 7th birthday and still cannot read fluently. At this age, a child is expected to achieve basic reading skills that is applied to many story books in attempt to read better. This foundation prepares a child for lessons in vocabulary, grammar, comprehension and composition.

Unfortunately, a struggling reader spends so much time fumbling with phonics that the lessons being taught for that age are not understood. Helping a child who is 7 years and younger should bring results faster than older persons.

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Here are 5 steps to help your child read better. If however he or she has difficulty understanding certain concepts that would usually be understood by a preschooler, then professional intervention is required.

5 steps to helping your child read better

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1. Alphabet sounds

Help your child read better by ensuring that the alphabet sounds are clearly understood. Spend some time each day listening to your child sound out each letter of the alphabet along with a word that starts with that sound.

A struggling reader tends to mix up the sound ‘a’ in the word ‘ate’ with ‘i’ in the word ‘ink’.

The sound ‘o’ in ‘orange’ can be confused with the ‘u’ in ‘under’.

These sounds may be obviously different to you, but at a young age, it is sometimes hard to differentiate.

Use this ABC video to show your child the letter sounds and that some letters have more than one sound.

2. Vowels and consonants

Identify the vowels and consonants in the alphabet to help your child read better. State that there are the vowels ‘a’, ‘e’, ‘i’, ‘o’ and ‘u’, and there is ‘y’ that sounds like both a vowel and a consonant in certain words. Vowels have long and short sounds.

Long vowels sound like the letter – ‘a’ as in ‘ape’, ‘e’ as in ‘eat’, ‘i’ as in ‘ice-cream’, ‘o’ as in ‘oat’, ‘u’ as in ‘use’ and ‘y’ as in ‘rhyme’ and ‘fly’.

Short vowels sound differently from the letter – ‘a’ as in ‘apple’, ‘e’ as in ‘egg’, ‘i’ as in ‘ink’, ‘o’ as in ‘orange’, ‘u’ as in ‘up’ and ‘y’ as in ‘rhythm’ and ‘myth’.

Consonants are the letters other than vowels. The letters ‘b’, ‘c’, ‘d’, ‘f’, ‘g’, ‘h’, ‘j’, ‘k’, ‘l’, ‘m’, ‘n’, ‘p’, ‘q’, ‘r’, ‘s’, ‘t’, ‘v’, ‘w’, ‘x’, ‘y’ and ‘z’ are consonants. Two of these letters ‘c’ and ‘g’ have hard sounds as in ‘cat’ and ‘got’ and soft sounds as in ‘cell’ and ‘giant’.

Some consonants have multiple sounds when blended as in ‘ph’ sounding like ‘f’ in ‘phone’ and ‘ch’ sounding like ‘sh’ in chef.

There are also many silent letters in words such as the ‘b’ in ‘lamb’, ‘h’ in ‘ghost’, ‘l’ in ‘walk’, and ‘p’ in ‘receipt’.

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3. Spelling rules

Your child would definitely read better after covering the spelling rules of English. This area is very challenging for many 5 and 6-year-olds to grasp quickly so if your 7-year-old is struggling to read, these rules might be the culprit. Here is a break down of the spelling rules under the headings Vowels and Consonants.


‘y’ as long ‘i’ and long ‘e’

‘y’ sounds like long ‘i’ at the end of a word with no other vowel. e.g. shy, dry, sty, fly

It sounds like long ‘e’ in an unstressed syllable e.g. family, lucky, study, key

‘oi’ or ‘oy’

‘oi’ is used in the middle of words e.g. toil, boil and ‘oy’ is used at the end of words. e.g. toy, boy

‘ou’ or ‘ow’

The letters ‘ou’ is used in the middle of words e.g. house, loud and ‘ow’ is used at the end of words. e.g. how, allow

Exception to the rule:

When a word ends in ‘l’ or ‘n’, use ‘ow’ in the middle. e.g. prowl, town

‘i’ before ‘e’ or ‘e’ before ‘i’

‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’ is the general rule for most words in English. e.g. friend, shield, achieve, ceiling, perceive, conceit

Exceptions to the rule:

‘i’ before ‘e’ when:

‘c’ sounds like ‘sh’. e.g. ancient, efficient, deficient, proficient

‘ie’ sounds like long ‘i’ and short ‘e’. e.g. science, society, anxiety

‘e’ before ‘i’ when ‘ei’ sounds like:

‘ei’ sounds like long ‘a’. e.g. weight, neighbour, vein, freight, foreign

long ‘e’. e.g. seize, either, neither

long ‘i’. e.g. height

short ‘e’. e.g. weird, their, leisure


CH goes before a vowel – champ, check, chip, choose, chump

CH goes after a consonant – branch, perch, pinch, orchard, lunch

TCH goes after a vowel – watch, fetch, snitch, notch, clutch

CK goes after a short vowel – back, deck, sick, clock, duck

K goes after a consonant – walk, perk, risk, hawk

F, L and S are doubled in words with one syllable – staff, wall, pass

You may use this article on affixes to teach more spelling rules on consonants.

4. Homophones

Homophones is another heavy topic that can cause a child to struggle with reading by the age of 7. Help your child to read better by exploring many words that sound the same with different spelling.

By ages 5 and 6, your child would have been exposed to 2, 3 and 4-words homophones. If by age 7, these words are not grasped properly, then reading would be hard.

Here are a few common homophones that may confuse your child at age 7. Use this article on Homophones to get a full list to practise the differences between words.

Know your homophones and read better

ate, eight

aunt, ant

been, bin

blew, blue

buy, by

four, for

got, gut

heal, heel   

hole, whole 

hour, our

it’s, its

meat, meet

new, knew

no, know

none, nun

nose, knows

one, won

raw, roar

rap, wrap

read, red

rob, rub

sea, see

some, sum

son, sun

tail, tale

waist, waste

weak, week

wait, weight

which, witch

your, you’re

bare, beer, bear

cent, scent, sent

deer, dear, dare

fair, fear, fare

not, knot, nut

or, oar, ore

pair, pear, peer

right, write, rite

sew, so, sow

stair, steer, stare

there, their, they’re 

two, to, too

vain, vein, vane

wear, where, ware

hear, hair, hare, here

pore, paw, poor, pour

5. Synonyms and antonyms

A struggling reader will learn to read better if he or she has a wider vocabulary. Teach your child new words daily to improve fluency in reading as this is dependent on familiarity of diction.

There is a vast number of words that have words that are similar in meaning and each of these words have antonyms or words that are opposite in meaning.

Learning new words should be done in a clever manner to avoid boredom. Some parents pick a word to be used throughout the day.

However, this strategy may take too long if you are trying to help your 7-year-old to read better quickly. Use this video below on Synonyms and Antonyms that displays 30 words with 10 synonyms and 10 antonyms for each.

After each set, you are given a test with a timer to recite the words that were just read and heard. This should be fun and would make your task a whole lot easier.


See also:

Is my child a struggling learner? 5 obvious signs

Reading intervention: 20 critical literacy problems to address

Autism signs parents should take seriously

Bad grades: Tips for students, parents, teachers

Delayed student in a traditional classroom

Lack of focus: A guide for parents

Personalised learning in the classroom

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