What causes difficulty reading and how can it be treated?

Symptom Database

Reading is a fundamental skill that is essential for academic success and personal growth. However, many individuals experience difficulty reading, which can significantly impact their learning and overall quality of life. In this article, we will explore the causes of difficulty reading and discuss various strategies and interventions that can help individuals overcome these challenges.

Understanding Reading Difficulties

Reading difficulties, also known as reading challenges or struggling with reading, refer to the difficulties individuals face when learning to read or comprehending written text. These difficulties can manifest in various ways, such as:

  • Poor decoding skills: Difficulty in recognizing and pronouncing words accurately.
  • Slow reading speed: Inability to read at an appropriate pace.
  • Weak reading comprehension: Difficulty understanding and extracting meaning from the text.
  • Limited vocabulary: Lack of exposure to a wide range of words, hindering comprehension.

Causes of Difficulty Reading

There are several factors that can contribute to difficulty reading. Some common causes include:

1. Learning Disabilities

Learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, can significantly impact an individual’s ability to read. Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that affects reading and language processing. Individuals with dyslexia may struggle with decoding words, recognizing letter sounds, and comprehending written text.

2. Lack of Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness refers to the ability to identify and manipulate individual sounds in spoken words. Difficulties in phonemic awareness can make it challenging for individuals to connect sounds to letters, leading to difficulties in decoding and reading fluency.

3. Limited Vocabulary

A strong vocabulary is crucial for reading comprehension. Individuals with limited exposure to words may struggle to understand the meaning of unfamiliar words, making it difficult to comprehend the overall text.

4. Poor Reading Instruction

Inadequate or ineffective reading instruction can contribute to reading difficulties. Without proper guidance and support, individuals may not develop the necessary reading skills, leading to ongoing challenges in reading and comprehension.

Treating Difficulty Reading

While difficulty reading can be challenging, there are various strategies and interventions that can help individuals improve their reading skills. Here are some effective approaches:

1. Multisensory Instruction

Using a multisensory approach to teaching reading can be highly beneficial for individuals with reading difficulties. This approach engages multiple senses, such as sight, sound, and touch, to reinforce learning. For example, incorporating tactile materials, like sandpaper letters, can help individuals with dyslexia associate letter shapes with their corresponding sounds.

2. Phonics Instruction

Phonics instruction focuses on teaching the relationship between letters and sounds. By explicitly teaching letter-sound correspondences, individuals can improve their decoding skills and enhance their overall reading fluency.

3. Vocabulary Building

Expanding vocabulary is crucial for improving reading comprehension. Encouraging individuals to read a wide range of texts and providing opportunities for explicit vocabulary instruction can help individuals develop a stronger vocabulary and enhance their understanding of written text.

4. Reading Comprehension Strategies

Teaching specific reading comprehension strategies can empower individuals to better understand and analyze written text. Strategies such as predicting, summarizing, and making connections can enhance reading comprehension and promote critical thinking skills.

5. Assistive Technology

Assistive technology tools can provide valuable support for individuals with reading difficulties. Text-to-speech software, for example, can read aloud written text, helping individuals with decoding and comprehension. Similarly, speech recognition software can assist individuals in generating written text, reducing the barriers they may face in expressing their ideas.


Difficulty reading can significantly impact an individual’s academic and personal life. However, with the right strategies and interventions, individuals can overcome these challenges and develop strong reading skills. By addressing the underlying causes and providing targeted support, individuals can improve their decoding abilities, reading fluency, and comprehension. Remember, everyone learns at their own pace, and with patience and appropriate interventions, individuals can unlock the joy and power of reading.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
Add a comment