I am an adult struggling with books. Where can I get help?

Manju Banerjee, Ph.D.

Manju Banerjee, Ph.D.



I am an adult who has struggled with books for years. I so desperately want to read, but don’t know where to go for help. I am a visual learner and get distracted easily. I can draw any picture in my head and write poems and stories easily…but I cannot read. Do you have any suggestions?


What you are describing is not uncommon and you are not alone. Reading is a really complex process, and while we are programmed to learn language as humans, we are not programmed to read. While most believe that the primary difficulty with reading is phonological awareness, that is, sound-symbol association, we are also learning that visual and auditory attention can play a significant role for some individuals with reading difficulties. Recent research by Dr. Matt Schneps, Director of the Center for Visual Learning at the Harvard-Smithsonian, shows that adjusting the display of print can make a difference. For example, he demonstrates that reading on an iPod (or iPad) where the text has been adjusted to 3 to 4 enlarged words per sentence, made a difference in both reading fluency and comprehension for some readers.

A suggestion to help would be the use of audio books, particularly, with the highlighting feature. The highlighting makes you focus on each word while you hear it being read out loud. Multi-sensory input stimulates different part of the recognition system of our brain and helps with the reading process.

Other resources include:

  • Learning Ally is the largest audio book lender in the country. They provide access to audio books for struggling readers.
  • There is a text-to-speech app called Voice Dream Reader. It will read digital text for you.
  • You might contact the Haskins Lab at Yale to receive more targeted intervention information.

Manju Banerjee, Ph.D. | Vice President and Director, Landmark College Institute for Research and Training (LCIRT), Landmark College, Putney, VT
Dr. Banerjee has over 28 years of experience in the field of learning disabilities, AD/HD, and postsecondary education, and is a certified diagnostician and teacher-consultant on learning disabilities. She has published and presented extensively, both nationally and internationally, on topics such as Universal Design for Instruction, disability documentation and accommodations, and technological competencies for postsecondary transition and online learning. She is an editorial board member of the Journal of Postsecondary Education Disability, Professional Advisory Board member to the Learning Disabilities Association of America, and a consultant to Educational Testing Service. She received her doctoral degree from the Neag School of Education, University of Connecticut, on the application of Universal Design to assessment practices.

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  1. I am an adult. I can read for the most part but struggle. I read and don’t get or understand at times what i’m reading unless i read out loud in private. I have ADHD and i am medicated. I should havn’t have let this go on for so long but i was very embarrased to state the facts. I am in college now again trying to gain a nursing degree. I am a medical assistant now but want to go farther. Some people if they knew would think i am crazy for thinking that I can do this. I trust God and know that he can help me get through this but at the same time have to be wise and i don’t want to let this stop me from achieving my goals. For I know that I can do all things through Christ. I’ve heard and seen people who have became nurses and doctors who have struggled with some of the same problems. I am wanting to get help with my struggles to better help myself and be able to one day help others.

    • LDA of America says

      I really admire your determination! First, you can get your texts in audio format from Bookshare. That should help you to get through the reading for your classwork. You can also access digital readers on almost any device. However, with regard to improving your reading skills, I would suggest that you contact the Adult Education and Literacy program in your area. If you don’t know where it is, you might check with your local public high school. They should be able to help you. Good luck!

  2. I am intelligent and can read out loud no problem but I can’t visualise the information, it evaporates. I made it half way through a university degree before it became visible in my marks. I would listen to the lectures intently. I found reading a paragraph or two then writing a one sentence summary on another piece of paper helped and I wrote each sentence in different coloured ink to keep my mind focused when doing revision. This technique worked for papers based on understanding etc. But I could not hold the names of the different theories attached to the information which stopped me being able to complete the degree. Perhaps it’s a technique that will help someone to make it just a little further than me. I still hope to go back one day and finish!

  3. I need someone to help me even know where to go ND start, I’m an adult with add, I never finished high school, and I don’t understand when I read, what I’m teading, diffultiy with math how to do the work and in high school I had a 3 grade reading level, my mom wants me to test for ssi, I don’t know how to fill paper work out and I’ve never been able to get a job. I need help and don’t know where to start or find physical help to help me

  4. Maritza Rodriguez says

    I have a son in college that have and IEP, he have learning disabilities, language and decoding, dyslexia, speech problem, aphasia. and it is very hard for him read. I want to know if there are any program /person that help him to read, teaching

  5. Beth Luppe says

    Thank you for such a thoughtful answer… and I learned something too! 🙂

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