Paula Moldenhauer
Tips for the Struggling Young Reader

By Paula Moldenhauer

“Children with speech difficulties often have trouble learning to read,” said my son’s speech pathologist. “You’ll need to watch him closely.”

I politely thanked her for her help and inwardly decided not to believe her. After all, Stephen was my deepest thinker. There was obviously no problem with intelligence. After a while, however, it became apparent to me that my son wasn’t learning the same way his older siblings had. Besides struggling with clear speech and academics, he also took longer to learn large motor skills, like riding a bike. I realized the curriculum I’d used with the older children wouldn’t be effective with Stephen.

Insecurity threatened as I dove into teaching my son, but as I walked with him on his academic journey I learned an important lesson: The ultimate curriculum planner is my Heavenly Father. He knew just what Stephen needed and when I asked, he showed me how to focus our school on my son’s needs. Looking back, God led me to several discoveries that helped us on this academic journey.

Understanding a Child’s Individual Learning Schedule

One of the most important preparations for this journey came from the writings of Ruth Beechick and Raymond and Dorothy Moore. Their teaching recommends allowing children to learn naturally and in their personal timetables. Understanding that boys often don’t fully kick into reading until they are nine or older, greatly reduced the stress that I felt to have Stephen reading “on schedule.” It also gave me the confidence to set aside the curriculum that worked for my older children.

Rhyming: The Key to Unlock Reading

The second milestone in Stephen’s journey started during a quiet moment in my blue rocker-recliner. As it became apparent that Stephen wasn’t going through the natural steps toward reading, I prayed for wisdom and felt a whisper in my heart, “Read him more Dr. Seuss.”

Dr. Seuss? Could that be the Lord? It sounded outlandish to me, but I pulled out the Dr. Seuss books. Not long after that I attended a homeschool convention and was drawn to a particular booth in the curriculum hall. A reading specialist and homeschooling mom, Peggy Wilbur, stood for hours answering questions as she displayed her book, Reading Rescue 1-2-3.

“In a recent study, dyslexic children’s ability to rhyme was tested,” Peggy explained. “They couldn’t. When they were taught to rhyme, all but a small percentage was then able to learn to read. Can your son rhyme? If he can’t, that’s where I’d start.”

I returned home equipped with Peggy’s book and advice and spent my son’s kindergarten year working heavily with rhyming. It had happened naturally with the other children and I’d never even noticed that Stephen couldn’t rhyme! I gave myself permission to let go of traditional expectations and we worked on the things he really needed, like coordination skills, support for his speech lessons, letter sounds, and of course, lots of rhyming books and games.

Nutrition and Exercise For the Brain

The next year before the homeschooling conference, I again prayed for wisdom. This time I was drawn to Diane Craft’s booth, Child Diagnostics, Inc., where she gave me a free fifteen-minute consultation. Armed with samples of my son’s work, I eagerly listened to her advice. Within a short time she’d assessed his problem, a difficulty in crossing the midline of his brain. She patiently explained that sounds are stored in one side of the brain, while the picture of the letter is stored in the other. Stephen’s left side could hear and learn a sound, but because the midline wasn’t working appropriately, the right side struggled to connect the symbol with the sound he’d learned.

Diane gave me a set of exercises to help Stephen’s brain learn to cross the midline and a list of nutritional recommendations to help build it. She suggested fish oil, grapefruit seed extract, and lecithin. She’d found in her work with struggling male readers that combining the fish oil and grapefruit seed extract significantly helped their academic progress. (Interestingly, this combination did not seem to significantly help with most females who struggled with reading.) After further research of the material Diane offered, I also put Stephen on Mineral Rich. I’d often caught him chewing on his shirt, a sign of mineral deficiency. Interestingly, even now, a couple of years since we started this nutritional program, if Stephen goes for very long without his supplements reading becomes more difficult and his penmanship more sloppy.

The Large Motor Skill Connection


Other articles explained the need for large motor skills activity in which the student crossed the midline of his body. One resource suggested gymnastics. I signed Stephen up but after many tears and a few nightmares over how inadequate he felt, I allow him to quit after the first session. We discovered, however, that he enjoyed roller hockey. After the first 6 months of consistent skating and hitting the puck across the midline of the body there was improvement in Stephen’s reading skills. His swimming instructor also mentioned how his coordination was improving.

Special Tools


Another tip I learned from Diane Craft is that a child with midline issues can better access stored letter sounds/symbols if the sound and picture is presented as a whole. So, I put aside the typical alphabet flash cards where Aa was written underneath the apple, and purchased a set where the letter was written on top of the apple—superimposed. The cards also employed the use of color to help cement learning. These cards, as well as other resources, can be purchased through Diane’s website. She also recommended a reading approach that relied heavily on phonics and shared strategies for helping the brain store spelling words, like using pictures, stories, and color.

The Best Resource


Gradually, as we sought God’s direction, Stephen began to improve. He prayed often that God would help him learn. During times of frustration and sometimes tears, Stephen and I both learned to cry out to God for help. We had a lot of discussions about how God has a special plan for Stephen’s life and how learning to persevere and work hard was preparing him for the future.

Stephen is now almost nine and actually enjoys reading! I don’t know if there are more concerns ahead of us, but seeing his progress gives me confidence to simply keep seeking the Lord’s counsel and trusting the resources He gives me. I’m encouraged when I look back and see that the Lord didn’t given me everything at once, which would have overwhelmed me, but He did give each step right on time.

The greatest resource for any child is his or her Creator, Who is eager to help each one become all He created them to be. Our loving Father knows just what each child needs. As parents, all we have to do is ask.

Note: My son mentioned in this article is now a highschooler. As we entered more difficult academic requirements in junior high, I realized we again needed to give him a boost. After much prayer God led me to Anna Buck of Anna’s House. Anna ended up treating all four of my children for varying degrees and types of learning struggles.

Her method treats the root of disabilities and allows the mind to begin the natural progression to learning that was skipped when children with struggles were young. All four kids are doing well. My daughter, who couldn’t spell, just got an “A” in her college English class. My oldest son, who hated to read just read a 300 page book for fun. Stephen pulled off A’s in difficult classes like Chemistry and Algebra II, sometimes getting 100% with no extra help from mom with any of the reading material or test prep. The youngest is plowing forward as well. I don’t think anything out there is a perfect “cure all,” but I highly recommend checking out what Anna’s House has to offer. You might especially enjoy reading and interview I did with Anna published by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. She was given special permission to put it on her site, and it explains a lot about the therapy she employs.

Author, speaker, and mom of four, Paula Moldenhauer has published over 300 times. Her first two novels released in 2012. She serves as the Colorado Coordinator for the American Christian Fiction Writers and homeschools. Paula loves peppermint ice cream and walking barefoot. Her greatest desire is to be close enough to Jesus to breathe His fragrance. Visit her:

I wrote the above article several years ago and still believe firmly in the tips I shared. However, as my children hit more difficult subject matter, we hit more bumps. I found what we needed for that next stage of support for my struggling learners through the work of Anna Buck of Anna’s House. I wrote several articles about our experiences with learning struggles and the help. You can find them on Anna’s site. You have to log-in to access them, but don’t worry. Anna won’t do anything irritating with your email address! You may also be able to find these articles in the archives of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine,, Homeschooling Today, and Homeschool Enrichment.