Teaching Reading to Adults with Learning Disabilities

More than 65 million adults living in the United States have learning disabilities, and many of them struggle with reading. Unfortunately, reading doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and many suffer in silence because they’re embarrassed and don’t want others to know that they can’t read. 
If you have an adult in your life with a learning disability who would love to know how to read, there are several ways to assist them. The key is to take the right approach while providing the encouragement and motivation needed to keep this person from feeling discouraged on their journey.

How to teach an adult with learning disability to read

How to Teach an Adult with Learning Disabilities to Read

Teaching an adult with learning disabilities to read is similar to teaching someone young to read, but you need to consider the age of the person you’re helping. It helps to buy engaging, age-appropriate books that won’t make these adults feel like you’re trying to dumb things down for them. If you want the disabled adult in your life to feel encouraged, be sure to follow the next several steps.

Step 1: Make sure they know and understand ALL of their ABCs.

Step 2: Ensure that the adult knows the sounds of EACH letter of the alphabet.

Step 3: Start by teaching sight words to the adult. Over time, they will slowly learn new words based on the fact that they are seeing them more and more!

Step 4: Next, teach CVC words (consonant vowel consonant words) to help them sound out each word.

Step 5: Read small books together. Challenge the reader by adding harder books as you go!

Have Patience

Before you get started, understand that this is a process that can take some time. You need to have patience and be consistent. Don’t belittle the adult in your life for not knowing how to read. In fact, you can lead by example while reading stories to them to get started.

You can have them look at the words you’re reading, while you’re saying them so that they can get a feel for how these words look and what types of letters get put together to make them. Reading together is a fantastic way to provide the encouragement that an adult with learning disabilities might need.

Read a Little More Each Day

Set a goal to have this person reading a little more each day. It all starts with a short page, but it turns into finishing a book with hundreds of pages. Be sure to set small, realistic goals in the beginning and wait until your loved one makes progress until you start pushing for more significant goals. A little reading each day can go a long way.

Help them Fall in Love with Reading

Make sure you’re doing your research and finding the right books that can make a difference. For example, many adults who’ve struggled with dyslexia throughout their lives have named some of the books that helped them fall in love with reading books, such as The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown and The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe.

If you have any books that you personally love and feel would be a good fit, consider getting them for the adult to see if they’re interested. When someone likes the idea behind a specific story, it often encourages them to want to read more, which can help with the process of teaching the adult in your life how to read better than before.


If you want to try teaching an adult to read, consider using the Reading Patch Teacher’s Manual for How to Teach an Adult to Read. While the Reading Patch site was built to help children learn to read using on-demand video reading lessons, they have had a lot of success with adults too! The How to Teach an Adult to Read teacher’s manual has 120 explicitly scripted lessons and many materials to help you teach reading. You can download and try 3 Free Reading Lessons here. Soon you will be on your way to helping teach an adult to read.

Tools for Helping Adults with Learning Disabilities Learn to Read:

With millions of adults living in the United States who have learning disabilities, many don’t know how to read and haven’t received the support or assistance needed to get on track. If you’re trying to help a loved one learn how to read, choose the right books, have patience, and make it a priority to stay consistent.

Madreen Karle and Meeghan Karle Mousaw
Madreen Karle is a master first grade reading teacher with over 30 years of classroom experience. She taught reading in a special needs and English as a Second Language classroom. After retiring she wrote a reading program to help others learn how to teach reading. She is a trusted educator and author of 5 books to help teach children to read and write. In addition to her books, she is a mentor for 3 websites that give reading teacher tips (Mrs. Karle's Sight and Sound Reading, Mrs. Karle's Reading Patch, and Mrs. Karle's Handwriting Patch). Through her teaching she learned that confidence was the key to learning to read. A child who is not confident at reading does not like to read and struggles to read. Mrs. Karle created "sunshine moments" to help teach children how to grow their confidence and learn to read.

Meeghan Karle Mousaw (Madreen’s daughter) has her Master’s in Special Education. She has 7 years experience teaching children to read online. In addition, she developed a curriculum to teach children handwriting called The Handwriting Patch. With the Handwriting Patch learning is fun because children learn to draw and learn handwriting at the same time. In 2019 The Handwriting Patch curriculum became an amazon best seller the first year it was released, helping thousands of kids learn handwriting with a unique, fun method. She is mom to 6 kids, each with differently learning abilities and struggles.

The Reading Patch was established by the creators of Mrs. Karle’s Sight and Sound Reading. Together they have been featured on the NBC media outlets. Over the last 7 years in their online platform, Madreen and Meeghan have worked tirelessly with teachers, homeschoolers and parents looking to help children learn to read to become a trusted authority in teaching children to read and advocating early literacy skills. They often partner with other educational experts to deliver the most current information to the Reading Patch community.