Stepdaughter Has Reading Problems

A mother asks what she can do to help her 15-year-old stepdaughter, who reads at a 2.8 grade level.
My 15-year-old stepdaughter came to live with us over a year ago. She's in ninth grade and testing shows her reading on a 2.8 grade level. The evaluator believes it's due to my stepdaughter's previous school environment and her mother's lack of concern for her learning. How can I help her with reading?
Is your stepdaughter already receiving special education services? If she isn't, immediately request that she be formally evaluated by your local school district so that she can be given support in school. If she's already receiving services, you should be regularly informed about her progress towards meeting her educational goals and objectives. If the program she is in is not helping her, ask to have her case reopened.

There are a number of supports that may help her in school:

  • There is an excellent reading instruction program called the Wilson Reading System that is designed for children in fourth grade and above who are having significant difficulty with reading. You can get more information about this program by going to the Wilson website at

  • While your stepdaughter is receiving more specialized reading instruction, she should also have access to books on tape so that she can keep up with the increasing load of information children her age confront every day. More information about how to qualify for this service can be found at Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic (1-800-221-4792) at

  • There is an excellent website ( for children your stepdaughter's age where she can chat with other kids who are having similar problems with school work. They also have information for parents.
  • For more than 20 years, Eileen Marzola has worked with children and adults with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders, and with their parents and teachers. She has been a regular education classroom teacher, a consultant teacher/resource teacher, an educational evaluator/diagnostician, and has also taught graduate students at the university level. Marzola is an adjunct assistant professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Hunter College of the City University of New York. She also maintains a private practice in the evaluation and teaching of children with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders.

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