Why Children Struggle With Academics

Why children struggle with academics

When we see children struggle with basic academics–reading, writing and arithmetic– there can be many underlying situations, but issues usually cluster around these three areas:

  • Illiteracy
  • Innumeracy 
  • Lack of social-emotional skills


What I mean by illiteracy is the inability to read and write fluently. 

Children feeling defeated by the lessons put in front of them usually lack the ability to decode words. 

As I’ve worked with children with reading problems what we found is that these poor readers only knew about 16 of the 40 basic letter and phonogram sounds in the English language. 

They were trying to read without having over half of the letter and their corresponding sounds firmly in memory. 

No wonder they struggled!


For children struggling with arithmetic usually they do not understand the concepts of teens and tens, along with place value. 

For the most part, children are able to connect the numbers 1 through 10 with a corresponding set of objects, such as fingers, cookies, etc.

Where difficulties may ensue are with numbers over the value of ten. 

These students do not understand that the number 1,111 represents a quantity of one thousand, one hundred eleven. 

Many children when asked the value of 1,111 will respond with “4”. 

When asked how they figured that out, they say that 1 + 1+ 1+ 1 = 4.

Lack of Social Emotional Skills 

Many children lack the ability to manage emotions, build healthy relationships, and show empathy and understanding.

Being unable to deal with the frustration of not understanding words and numbers only deepens their conflict of dealing with academics. 

Feelings of self-worth are diminished in this process, leading to coping behaviors such as being the “tough guy” or even the bully. Or worse, simply giving up. 

Here are some Kids Talk resources to help you as a parent or teacher of a child struggling with academics:


Free Kids Talk Webinar: Understanding How Children Learn To Read

Kids Talk Articles: Children’s Literacy Series 


Kids Talk Article: Truth in Numbers: Count To Ten

Kids Talk Article: Essential Math Skills For Life

Social-Emotional Skills

Free Kids Talk Webinar: Helping Children Learn To Listen 

Kids Talk Articles: Effective Communication Series 

You may find this Kids Talk Series on the brain helpful: Brain Series.

If a child is failing it is never the child’s fault.

It is our job as adults to prepare an environment for the child to succeed. 

Check out this month's free webinar.

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