Help! My kid decodes the same words over and over!

Megan, 2nd grade teacher: I have a kid who is in second grade, but is still decoding the same words over and over again. Every time he sees a word, for example “cub,” he will painstakingly sound it out “c-u-b,” and then say “cub.” Help! What can I do to help him “see” the whole word rather then one letter at a time? At this time, he is still reading at the beginning of first grade, and he is so slow that his comprehension is suffering.

Reading Doc Flynn: Megan, good for you, recognizing that it is his slow reading that causes his comprehension problems, not the other way around. Now, about his over-decoding problem: Normally-developing readers, even very young ones, only need 1-3 exposures to decoding a word in order to automatize on it. Your student definitely needs intervention to overcome his slow processing. Fortunately, there is an effective intervention: Repeated Oral Assisted Reading (ROAR). Check our ROAR videos on this website (Resources and Grantees pages) for demonstrations, and download our protocols to learn how to that.

One word of caution: Expect this process to take quite a while, perhaps a couple of years for him to become fully fluent. He will make steady progress, but it will be slow In our i.t.a. literacy clinics, we have worked with over-decoders like your student many times across the years. I know that ROAR will work for him, so use the advice and charts available on these pages to encourage him (and yourself) as he makes slow but steady progress.

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