Helping My Struggling Reader

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Do you have any struggling readers at your house?

After teaching my first child to read, I thought I was a homeschool superstar! She seemed to learn how to read almost over night. Teaching reading is easy, right?

Wrong. So wrong. My next child would show me how much I had to learn about teaching reading.

My son, Tiger, has been very slow to learn to read. It has not been an easy journey to help him understand phonics, sound out words, and comprehend the short stories he can read. I want him to be successful and to someday enjoy reading, so I’ve found a few ways to help him.

If you have a struggling reader at your house, take heart. You can help your child learn to read. Here are some great tips for you.

Move at your child’s pace
I’ve had to recognize that reading is a challenge for Tiger and give him adequate time to understand each concept without forcing him to move forward too quickly and experience frustration. This has meant that often our reading lessons move at a snail’s pace. Sometimes we repeat lessons more than once. I have had to toss the lesson plans and teach at a pace that he needs for understanding.

Know that this is ok. It’s more important to move at your child’s pace and aim for mastery so your child can adequately understand each concept.

Read stories multiple times
I often have Tiger reread stories that he has previously read – especially stories that are slightly below his ability level. This builds fluency and bolsters his confidence levels. He starts to recognize words more quickly when he knows the general flow of the story.

Find a few books that are not too challenging and read them every month. The repetition might make you feel crazy, but it will do wonders for your child’s fluency and reading confidence.

Try tag-team reading
Sometimes he will read a sentence and I will read the next one. However, what I’ve found works the best is for him to read a sentence and then for me to go back and reread it to him. I have discovered that he was not having any comprehension of the stories because it took him so long to sound out every single word. By the time he finished reading a sentence he could not remember the first part of that sentence, so he had no comprehension.

When I reread every sentence after he has read it, he is able to follow the story line and he is more interested in reading because the book is more than just a collection of fragmented words, it becomes a story. As I reread the sentence I point to each word so he can follow along. This has enabled him to start recognizing words and memorizing them so he does not have to sound them out every time.

So try it both ways – you read one sentence and your child reads the next one. Or try it our way, you reread each sentence so your child can follow the story line and enjoy the story as he or she is reading.

Prioritize read aloud time
I am committed to reading aloud to my children even after they can read. This allows them to hear more complex stories and vocabulary than they would be able to read on their own. It also enables them to hear stories that are more interesting than the simple readers that they can read on their own. When I read with Tiger it piques his interest in books and he views them as filled with interesting stories that one day he will be able to discover. Reading aloud to him has aroused his curiosity and motivated him to continue learning to read so that the world of exciting and daring stories will be opened to him.

Keep a pile of great books to read aloud to your child. Make it a priority to have read aloud time each day. It’s a nice reward to be able to enjoy a story being read to you after working hard to read a story on your own. Make it a fun time!

Read with dad
My husband was never a reader and only in the past year has begun to read for pleasure. I can’t imagine a life without books, so I was astounded when he detailed his own reading struggles and distaste for books. I don’t want Tiger to feel the same way and neither does my husband. So, while my husband never enjoys reading aloud, he makes time to read with the kids, especially Tiger.

Sometimes the parent who is the teacher needs a break – and the child might need a break from you as well. You might want to consider mixing things up and having the child read with someone else – another parent, a grandparent, a sibling.

Let them see you reading
Often when the school day is done and the kids are working on a new Lego creation, I have a few minutes to sit down before I start dinner. In those moments I sometimes grab a book and sit on the couch nearby as my children play. They are always curious about what book I’m reading and it motivates them to continue reading when they see how important it is to me and how much I enjoy it. Tiger witnesses me choosing to read out of enjoyment and it encourages him to continue reading.

Be sure to model the habit of reading so your child sees that reading is important and enjoyable to you. It’s just another way to help motivate a struggling reader.

Use audio books
These have been one of the most important tools in our house. Tiger loves to listen to audio books of all kinds. He listens while he builds with Leogs or while he paints or while he plays with his knights and castle. He doesn’t have to sit still during this reading time but he is still filling his mind with words and wonderful stories. After he listens to a book he enjoys I show him that book at the library and bookstore and he has decided that one day he will read those books himself. By listening to challenging audio books he is able to enjoy the thrilling and complex stories that he will someday be able to read himself.

The act of reading can be very tiring for a child who is struggling so give him or her a bit of a break. Let your child enjoy lots of stories through audio books.

Give your child easy access to high-interest books
I keep our shelves filled with books that I hope will interest my children. I try satisfy Tiger’s natural curiosity by buying books on topics that he enjoys such as pirates, sharks, knights, and wild animals. I also try to find books that have wonderful pictures and less text so he will feel less intimidated by these books.

I have found that he enjoys paging through some of our history books like the “You Wouldn’t Want to Be….” series. He also enjoys beginning chapter books that contain a large number of pictures like the Geronimo Stilton series. And because many of the Magic Treehouse books are about topics that interest him (like ninjas or knights) he has tried to read some of them on his own. I make sure he has access to books that he enjoys looking through so that he will continue to be motivated to try to read them on his own.

Make a book basket of interesting books at your child’s level and below your child’s reading level, keeping a pile of interesting books always ready for the times he or she wants to explore new books.

 

When teaching a struggling reader it’s easy to get discouraged; however, don’t give up. Even if the reading progress is very slow, know that it is still forward progress. Don’t give up!


This school year my son has made great strides in learning to read. He has greater comprehension and a longer attention span. He also has a greater motivation to learn to read. We are both excited to see his progress and my hope is that he will be someone who enjoys reading and chooses books as a source of enjoyment.


I am using All About Reading to help Tiger learn to read and this phonics-based program has helped him make great strides. For more info on our favorite reading program you can click on the image below. It has been one of the the most valuable homeschool resources. Without it I am sure that my son would still be struggling. I am so pleased with his current progress!

You can teach your child to read. It might not be without some significant struggles and challenges, but there are many resources available to help.

Of course, if you suspect a learning disability look for testing either through your local school district, a local university, or through a private evaluation.

Hip Homeschool Moms

 

4 thoughts on “Helping My Struggling Reader

  1. My eight year old struggles with reading. Sometimes it can be difficult for her to see that she is improving but being able to point out that "A year ago, you couldn't read this" helps.

    Our aim is for her to enjoy books even if, at present, reading them is difficult. We try to make sure that we reward her with books. Sticker books were a recent favourite. I don't, for a moment, think that they will help her reading but they do help with liking books.

    Early readers can be so boring. I remember my daughter objecting to reading "A shark in the park" because sharks don't live in parks unless someone is writing a reader with -ar words. We are currently separating phonics out from everything else and doing a session a day with a book which isn't at all interesting as a reader but does loads of phonics drill and is designed for people with dyslexia and other reading issues.

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