Paired Reading and Dyslexia

Dyslexia can be a devastating disability that causes people to struggle while reading even easy material, but one simple technique called “Paired Reading” has helped to increase the average reading ability of struggling readers by as much as 2 ½ grade levels in one school year. I know for a fact that this is true – it happened twice in my own classroom!

Dear Parents or Teachers,

If you are reading this article, you probably know a dyslexic child or adult who is struggling with reading, OR you are trying to teach a struggler how to read, OR perhaps you are struggling with reading yourself. In all three cases, the process of reading is causing you grief. I understand – I am an adult with dyslexia, a teacher of dyslexics, and the parent of two wonderful dyslexic men. In all three of these roles, I have had to deal with the pain that dyslexia brings. It is intense! But, I’m here to tell you . . . there is hope!

The reading disabilities caused by dyslexia are remediable for most people! 

BUT . . . they must be taught with methods that work for them. Here is one technique that I’ve used successfully to raise the reading levels of the struggling readers in my fourth-grade classes, as well as with my own grandchildren.

How to Do Paired Reading in Five Easy Steps

The research and practice supporting Paired Reading has been around for years. It goes by several names: Paired Reading, Partner Reading, Reading Buddies, Choral Reading, Duolog Reading, and The Neurological Impress Method . . . just to name a few. Basically, all of these methods refer to the process of a strong reader reading at least part of the time in unison with a weaker reader. So here is a simple procedure you may try that already has a proven track record.

Note – for simplicity, I will be referring to your struggling reader as a “he,” but dyslexia is not “gender specific.” There are just as many girl dyslexics as boys.

Step One – Decide on a Time and Place

If you want this tool to succeed, you will need to make a few simple preparations:

  • Schedule a 10-minute uninterrupted time each day when you can sit down with your struggler and read together in a comfortable, enjoyable setting that is free of distractions. (Hmmm, is there really such a place? Do the best you can in your particular situation.) Plan to do it several times per week.

Step Two – Find Your Student’s “Success Zone” for Reading

There is a reading level that will help your student begin to read and love to read. Take the time to find that zone. (See my blog from last week for details on finding “the Zone.”)

Step Three – Find a Good Book in Your Student’s “Zone”

Here are some tips for getting started:

  • Do you remember a book that you really liked when you were your student’s age?
  • What are some subjects that interest your student?
  • There are some books available that are classified as “high-low” books. This means they are high interest to older children – but written at a lower readability level. A little searching can help you find one that is of interest to your student.
  • Don’t overlook graphic novels (the ones with comic-book-like illustrations). One of the favorite series for my struggling “tween-agers” (9-12 years old), is the Jedi Academy series by Jeff Brown. He has included some hilarious comic-book pages, but there are also many pages with a large amount of text and some great vocabulary.
  • Ask your student, “If you could read any book in the world easily, what would you read?” You may be surprised at the answer.

Whew! Finding the “right” book can be hard in the beginning, but now for the fun part! (It may not start out as fun, but persevere – it can become the best part of your struggler’s day!)

Step Four – Start Reading

There are a few variations of Paired Reading you can try. See which one works best for you and your reader. (In my next blog, I will share 3 simple methods that you can use with unison reading.)

There are only two requirements:

  • Part of the time, you will be reading in unison. That means “together, at the same time.” (Actually, your struggler may be reading along slightly after you, and that’s fine.) Take the time to explain any words he doesn’t know.
  • You will “check for understanding” (comprehension) at the end of your session. That means you will ask questions in order to be sure your reader remembers and understands what he read. We need to continually build the connection to comprehension. Ask “who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” “why,” “how,” etc. I’ve included a comprehension game you can play when you’re done reading with your student called “The Comprehension Star Game.” Enjoy racking up those points!

Step Five – Read to Him for Enjoyment (Optional, but Very Valuable!)

After the Paired Reading time is up, read any book in which your struggler is interested at his own intelligence level . . . not his limited reading level. Let him just listen and enjoy. This “Modeling Phase” helps reading become a goal for him. Someday, he’ll be able to read whatever he wants. And, he will want to read . . .  because he has caught the reading bug.

The modeling phase was probably one of the most important factors in the success my own two sons achieved with reading. For years, even into high school, I read great stories to our family at night, with all of us piled on our king-sized bed. After we had worked hard to conquer the “downside” of dyslexia, there came a day when they were ready to take off on their own. I would read a chapter of a great fantasy novel (our favorite genre), and either they wanted to read it again, or they wanted to cheat and read ahead. Suddenly, they were readers, and started reading books on their own.


There you have it – a simple, effective, research-based, and often very enjoyable method you can use to increase the reading ability of your struggling reader! In addition, it’s free, so what have you got to lose? Seriously, for two years in a row, my struggling fourth-grade students did make an average jump of 2 ½ years in one school year! (And during both of those years, one student made a four-year jump!)

How simple can it be? To review and summarize:

Step One – Decide on a Time and Place
Step Two – Find Your Student’s “Success Zone” for Reading
Step Three – Find a Good Book in Your Student’s “Zone”
Step Four – Start Reading
Step Five – Read to Him for Enjoyment (Optional, but Very Valuable!)

So, if you want to be a life-changing parent or teacher, start your Paired Reading routine as soon as possible, and do it for at least ten minutes per day. And make sure your students are reading in their “Success Zone.” Remember – if they can’t read it, they can’t read it! Don’t even ask them to try. Help them find books they CAN read, or read the books to them. You can do this! It’s such a small thing, but it can make a huge, life-changing difference!




  1. <> (a great video demonstrating Paired Reading in a classroom)


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