One of the toughest challenges for parents is when their child is a “struggling reader.” I put this term in quotation marks because this is a term used to classify a whole host of different kinds of readers. While each student has his or her own struggles with reading, there are definitely a few strategies to help your struggling reader engage a bit more with the act of reading. As an educator and recovering struggling reader myself, I understand how easily students can feel discouraged when they struggle with a seemingly “basic” task of learning. Here are some tips that parents can use to encourage and engage their struggling reader.
The most important thing that a parent can do for their children is to instill a love of reading without forcing their children to read. Say what? You are probably saying to yourself, well how do I do that? One of the things you can do is to help your child select books that interest them. Many kids have no idea what kinds of books they like to read, but they certainly know what they don’t like.
There’s a great tool you can use with your child that can help! If there is a book your child has enjoyed (even if it’s just one), you can plug that title into What Should I Read Next and this tool can make suggestions similar to the book you recently liked. While this tool isn’t perfect, it typically gives some suggestions to point your child in the right direction.
Reading as Punishment:
Never never never never never ( Did I say NEVER?) use reading (or writing) as a form of punishment. When parents tell their children that they are punished and therefore have to go read or write instead of using an iPad or video game, they are essentially telling their children that reading is a form of punishment. Once children start to make that association, you will find it difficult to reverse that thought process without a great deal of effort. Don’t do it. Menial labor works just fine if you wish to redirect your child away from electronics. They can come and shovel my driveway anytime!
Read Aloud at Any Age:
If you don’t know about Jim Trelease’s The Read-Aloud Handbook, you need to. It’s a wonderful book that stressed the importance of reading aloud along with an extensive list of books to read aloud to children of all ages. Kids love to hear stories read to them, not to mention the auditory skills they are honing when they listen. This book has so many great suggestions for books that are both engaging and age-appropriate.
If you think your teens and tweens won’t be interested in hearing you read aloud, I had a very challenging twelfth grade class who became riveted to the book One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. I began reading a few short excerpts aloud and the students couldn’t get enough. Many of them not only began to read ahead each night, but claimed that it was the only book they had ever read in high school. Don’t underestimate the power of the spoken word. If you aren’t comfortable making the necessary change in voices and inflection, get a subscription to audible and listen together. Even adults can appreciate a read aloud.
If you are a teacher, you have probably heard this term ad nauseam. It simply means that kids who grow up around books, learn to be curious about books and therefore better readers. If you don’t have an unlimited budget (or unlimited space for your own library) grab your library card and spend some time walking around and exploring books. What do the covers look like? How are the books organized? Make it a place of both learning and fun and you will begin to sow the seeds for a lifelong reader. If you would like to have a little fun, engage your child in a scavenger hunt at your local book store. I have done this even with my college students and they always enjoy it. Let kids wander and explore (within reason, of course). You may be surprised at some of their choices!
Electronic Reading? Not So Much:
Kindles and Nooks are great, don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love loading a few books on my kindle before a long plane ride somewhere and not having to lug 20 lbs. of books around. Yes, I’m talking about my pre-kid life. Who has long plane rides alone these days? That being said, there is a great deal of research out there that shows that comprehension and retention of material is better when the reading is done with an actual book. I’m not going to go all science-y on you, but have a look at some of the research. As your child becomes more skilled, reading on a kindle or phone is fine, but if your child is struggling with comprehension or recalling key events, it may be better to go low-tech for a bit. Check out this article about retention here.
Take the pressure off:
Today there are a LOT of reading packets that come home from school even in summertime. It can be overwhelming for students, who often lack the time management skills to complete such a task. If your child is assigned a book to read, take the opportunity to read it with them. Ask questions. Have a discussion at the dinner table. Read some chapters aloud before bed. Get younger siblings involved (if appropriate). There is no richer experience than discussing a text with another person. If you genuinely express an interest in your child’s learning, they will begin to understand how important it is!
Mom, wife, educator, and loyal friend. Passionate about all things reading and writing. Sharing parenting tips with an educator’s lens.