Saturday, October 29, 2011

Struggling Readers---Why So Many 8, 9, and 10 Year Olds?

Over the past few months, I have been receiving more than a few calls from parents, grandparents, and teachers about children from the 8-10 year-old age group. Many of these concerned adults have told me about the children's reading problems with focus, about "too many words on a page", and the actual resistance to reading in general. I could not help but think, “What is happening with reading in this particular group of children from ages 8-10?"

First of all, many children are often presented with their first, “large” text book somewhere between the ages of 8 and 10 years. For many, this will be a social studies (geography) or science book with two columns of text per page. Young students are easily overwhelmed by the appearance of this first example of just “too much text” on each page. This experience is more like a “shock” to them, given the other books they previously have read with one set of long text lines on each page. Trying to focus and read becomes that much more difficult.

In addition to this, these children can also experience more “visual stress”, not just from the sheer increase in the volume of text to be read, but in the increase of the white page backgrounds behind the greater amounts of text. Developmental optometrists will mention that this visual stress can contribute significantly to vision-related reading difficulties.

What can be done to help with this situation? Most probably, textbook publishers will not be changing their text formats anytime soon. However, a few things might be helpful. Prior to reading a new section in a “larger” text book, use the SQRRR method of reading and reviewing material:

1. or

2. .

This is an excellent method to adopt as an approach to life-long reading and learning.

Also, changing the white background of a page by using a colored overlay can go a long way to diminishing or eliminating visual stress for a reader. Another option, especially if focus and visual stress are suspected, is to introduce the Reading Focus Card, a solution that 1) changes any printed page's white background to a chosen color AND 2) blocks out more surrounding text than any other reading tool available.

These are some of the simplest, most inexpensive, and non-invasive options for helping children in this age group with reading challenges of this kind.

For more information: For focusing tools that work! For info, resources, and support


  1. The ages of 8-10 (around 3rd or 4th grade in a traditional public school system) is also often the first time a child is really asked to absorb and analyze information. Regurgitation is no longer good enough at this level. The focus is on the information rather than the reading process itself.

    Though this isn't necessarily the beginning of the child's troubles, this is often the first time a parent/teacher/tutor notices that the student struggles with reading or has a learning disability like dyslexia.

    Thanks for the attention to this topic!
    -Pam, Verticy Learning

  2. Dear Pam,

    I certainly appreciate your comments here. You have added some very important ideas.

    Yes, reading expectations are quite different for children from 8-10 years. This is also the time when teachers and parents do notice young readers who struggle.

    Also, you were correct to mention that analyzing information when reading involves a higher level of thinking as opposed to basic recall. This is another reason why students' reading "issues" often become apparent.

    Teachers in grades 2-5 may need more time for one-on-one interaction with each student in their classes in order to notice or discern individual reading challenges as well as strengths.

    Many thanks for taking the time to post your good ideas here, Pam!

    Joan Brennan
    Help for Struggling Readers