How to Help Struggling Readers This Back-to-School Season
If you noticed your child had trouble reading last year, now’s the time to have a plan to help them. Reading plays a pivotal role in education, and it’s important for students to completely grasp the topic to ensure success.
Luckily, there are more solutions than ever to help teach struggling readers. Discover more about the difficulties and how to support your students below!
What are the difficulties in reading?
Do you know which areas are causing your child’s reading problems? To understand why students struggle with reading, it is important to first recognize the different components of reading. The National Reading panel says that there are five:
- Phonemic awareness – the ability to hear and manipulate individual sounds in spoken words
- Phonics – understanding the relationships between letters and sounds
- Fluency – the ability to read accurately and quickly
- Vocabulary – words that are known and recognized
- Comprehension – the reason for reading; understanding what is being read
In general, these components are learned in sequence; a student who has fluency must have phonemic awareness. The steps to get a student to reading comprehension are seen in a reading pyramid, which outlines these components in more detail.
For children struggling with reading, one or more of these components don’t make sense, and there are a few reasons for this.
- Learning disability: About one in five children in the United States have a documented learning disability. To determine if this is the cause behind your child’s reading struggles, the best thing is to first talk to his or her teacher. Combining the knowledge of behavior at home and at school may help determine if this is the issue.
There is also a program called Child Find, which is available to all students for free as a learning disability diagnostic assessment. If this is the case, there are plenty of resources to help your child succeed.
- Decoding issues: This is when your child has difficulty sounding out words, reads slowly, or does not use expression when reading out loud. Generally, these students get stuck on individual words and can lose sight of the bigger picture of reading. A lot of time and energy is spent focusing on words and children can get frustrated during this process.
- Comprehension issues: If your child is struggling to remember what a book was about, or just doesn’t seem to be understanding a story, comprehension may be the problem. This can occur even if the student is an expert decoder; comprehension focuses more on understanding and interpreting text. This may occur if a child does not have strong vocabulary skills.
- Retention issues: Students with retention issues have a strong grasp on decoding and comprehension, but may struggling to remember what he or she has read. This can be observed when asking a child to write a book report; he or she may not be able to summarize it accurately or in great detail.
- Lack of interest: The final possibility for why your child is struggling with reading is because he or she does not have an interest in it. However, this is probably one of the easier problems to fix; children enjoy reading if it’s done correctly!
How do you encourage your child to read?
Once you have identified the problems causing your child to struggle with reading, it is important to recognize the solutions. In order to most effectively address these problems, we’ve broken solutions down by causes of reading difficulty.
For children with decoding issues:
- Play with magnetic letters on the fridge and put them in order as you sing the alphabet song!
- Start writing out notes and letters, and as you’re writing, sound out the letters that are being written.
- Point out irregular words that don’t follow the normal rules of phonics, such as “said,” “was,” and “are.
- Find creative ways to represent letters, such as writing them in sand or sidewalk chalk.
- Use signage (such as stop signs or one-way signs) to make real-world connections to how letters can be used.
For children with comprehension issues:
- Take notes, outlines, or create word maps or flash cards while you read. Writing down information about the book will help you understand it better.
- Start small by reading short passages or short stories. Quiz your child and see if he or she can understand that text, and if your student can, then move onto larger pieces.
- Read with a friend or with a parent. Discuss the book while you’re reading it, especially passages you might be confused on. Try to connect the stories to real life.
- Predict the ending of the book or story based on what you have understood about the story so far.
- Choose a story that has been made into a movie. Watch the movie first, then read the book. Discuss how the book and the movie differ.
For children with retention issues:
- Begin to bookmark the story or book you are reading with different colors. Perhaps a green bookmark indicates a happy moment, whereas a red would mean something negative.
- Try to build a timeline of the book after reading it, without looking through the book again. This lets children visualize the story and determine if they have left anything out – does the timeline look complete?
- Have your child read through a book, and ask questions about the book when he or she is done. At first, ask the questions immediately. If your child can answer quickly, start waiting an hour or two to talk about the book.
- Discuss the book and find out what your child found interesting. Take the time to look up fun facts or answer questions about the topic.
- Have your child read out loud to someone or something. Studies have shown that reading to a dog drastically improved comprehension and retention, since students remember 90% of what they teach.
For children who are reluctant readers:
- Get books with graphics or have your child pick out a book he or she finds most interesting. It doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or non-fiction – any reading is good reading!
- Alternate while reading; your child can read one page, and you can read the next. You can even make it into a game by changing your voices while you read.
- There are plenty of word and reading games available for students to utilize. This can help your child improve his or her vocabulary with all sorts of fun words.
- Take weekly field trips to the library.
- Utilize learning tools like Mad Libs™ or Choose Your Own Adventure™ books.
- Ensure that your child has a specific time and place to read. This should be a distraction-free environment so he or she can focus and give complete attention to the reading.
- Make sure that you, as parents, are reading as well. Providing a role model for students to follow is essential to reading success.
Of course, these strategies and tips can be mixed and matched, depending on the needs of your child. The most important thing to do when your child is reading is to be encouraging and supportive. Not everyone learns at the same pace, and that is normal.
Time4Learning’s reading curriculum features best practices for literacy development and reading instruction by interweaving listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
What about standardized tests?
Testing can be a scary process for some children, especially students who struggle with reading. In fact, a majority of elementary school students score below reading proficiency levels, according to 2015 national reading assessments.
This can be stressful for families, especially if a child suffers from testing anxiety. However, there are a number of tips and strategies to help improve your child’s reading skills test scores. Reading success is just a click away!