Engaging a struggling reader can seem impossible at times. Trying to get kids to do things they have trouble with can require a great deal of patience and persistence. Working past the feelings of failure and struggle can feel insurmountable, but with a few key strategies and an extra dose of patience, struggling readers can improve their skills and even learn to enjoy reading.
One of the most effective strategies to help a struggling reader is to read together as a family. This is an essential activity because it not only builds skills and confidence, it defines reading as an enjoyable activity that the family chooses to do together. Removing feelings of isolation and punishment can make reading fun instead of tedious.
A struggling reader deals constantly with failure. Reading is a key and central activity throughout the school day and it can feel like every attempt at learning is another opportunity to fail. By celebrating successes, no matter how small, the struggling reader can feel the joy of victory and accomplishment. Every victory should be mentioned, even those that have nothing to do with reading. This will help maintain their interest in learning and help the child understand that they are not simply “stupid”; they just have difficulty in one area.
Set realistic goals
Reading skills improve over weeks, months and years. Learning a single new word or a new strategy for decoding words may come quickly, but large scale improvement will take time. Set some goals that are easy to reach, like reading ten minutes a day for ten days. Set other goals that take more time and dedication like reading a particular book unassisted. This will allow for small accomplishments and victories along the way helping to develop reading skills along with the important skill of working towards a goal.
Do not focus on improving reading speed, instead focus on comprehension. The best readers may read slowly as they take the time to go back and reread something that did not make sense, or pause to contemplate the meaning of a particular sentence or passage. Using a book summary to enhance understanding of a book before reading the book is a great way to build confidence and enhance understanding for those who are struggling with comprehending what they read.
Let your struggling reader know what areas you have trouble in, and let them know how that has affected you. Talk about some of the things you do to improve your weaknesses and how you cope. Knowing that others have weaknesses will help the struggling reader to not become overly self-conscious about their difficulties and instead focus on coping and improving.
Kids get a confidence boost when parents and teachers work together with the children themselves to improve skills. Don’t exclude the child from conversations with the teacher. Instead, make sure they know what you are talking about, and what solutions you are discussing. Make them part of the process so they don’t feel like they have been ganged up on or are being disciplined. Feeling included can aid the process of improving skills.
Many issues can present as reading difficulties. From learning disabilities to emotional struggles, tackling reading difficulties is a challenge many kids and parents. Knowing the right strategies to deploy at home will help keep your struggling reader engaged, willing to learn, eager to improve, and will reduce anger and frustration so you can move forward in confidence.