in this post we’ll look at tips to help your struggling reader at home. Reading is the foundation to all learning. It’s not surprising therefore, that many parents worry about their child’s reading, especially if they appear to be a struggling reader. And this worry is often made worse by hearing other parents talking competitively about their child’s reading progress.
As with all learning however, it’s worth remembering that learning to read is not a race or competition. Children are different, and they will become readers at their own pace. It is a skill that some will find easy, some difficult and some in need of extra input and support..
In the posts, Reading Aloud: Giving Children the Best Start and Learning to Read: How to Support Your Child’s Journey, I looked at how children learn to read and the importance of reading aloud to children as an essential building block for mastering the skill itself. In this post, I will focus on struggling readers and most importantly, how parents can help.
What does the research say?
If you have a struggling reader, you are certainly not alone. Research has shown that a significant number of children upon starting school, have difficulties with reading. In these cases, research shows that early intervention is key. Studies carried out by ASCD/NICHD, show that the majority of children who are at risk of reading failure are able to become average or above average at reading with early intervention. This involves being given intensive interaction in phonics, reading comprehension, vocabulary and reading fluency, (Lyon et al, 2001).
Without this early intervention however, research has shown that a struggling reader who has failed to learn to read by the age of 9, has a 70% chance of being illiterate for their lifetime, (Shaywitz, 2003). This percent massively reduces however, to 6% when children are identified early as struggling readers and given the intense instruction needed (Torgesen, 2002).
Research has also shown that early exposure to literacy, including children being read to, forms the essential building blocks in learning to read. For more on this, see, Learning to Read: How to Support Your Child’s Journey.
How do I know if my child is a struggling reader?
Whether a child is being successful at learning to read is largely based on their ability in 5 areas. These are:
Phonemic awareness: being able to break down words and manipulate the sounds.
Phonics: blend letters together to form sounds and words.
Fluency: read with speed, accuracy and correct expression.
Vocabulary: has a large knowledge base of words.
Comprehension: able to understand what they are reading.
The end goal of learning to read is comprehension. In order to understand what we read, we need to be able to decode words, recognise words quickly and be fluent enough that our concentration can be focused on understanding what we are reading.
What appears to be a significant factor in preventing some children learning to read successfully, is not understanding that words consist of of sound parts (phonemes). As a result, these children find it difficult to link the sounds to the letters. You can see this lack of understanding when a child’s reading is painfully slow. It also makes it extremely difficult for them to understand what they’re reading as all their concentration is taken up un trying to work out the words.
If your child is a struggling reader, you will likely notice one or more of the following:
- They are not learning or keep forgetting a reading concept.
- They are very hesitant when reading. They stop and start frequently.
- They make numerous mispronunciations.
- They are unable to talk about anything that happened in the book as all their concentration was trying to work out the words.
Tips to help your struggling reader at home
Like with any skill, practice is key for a child to improve their reading. It’s not surprising however, that many struggling readers become demotivated in learning to read and lose interest in practising. When they start school, reading will take up a significant part of their activities and to be seen as struggling by their peers and teachers can be demoralising to say the least. It’s here however, that parents can be of particular support to their child.
Below are 13 tips on how you can help and support your struggling reader from the beginning and maintain their motivation.
Choosing books for your struggling reader
It’s important to maintain your child’s motivation and engagement with reading. One way to do this is to keep a variety of books that they can access at home. Include plenty of books that they have chosen and are interested in.
Add to their collection on a regular basis, including books from your local library as well as the school library. Ensure that some of the books are always a level above their current ability to keep them moving forward.
As difficult as it is to see your child struggling with such an important skill, try to keep it in perspective. Remind yourself that it is something that will take time, but with your help and the help of educators, it is something that can be overcome; especially with early intervention.
As you and your child travel this road, always keep one of the key objectives in mind: that reading is meant to be joyous. And remind them that you are right there with them; that you will overcome this temporary obstacle together.
And finally, remember that PRACTICE is key. Make reading a priority every day, in an environment that is loving, patient and enjoyable. And expand their practice beyond the daily books to life outside the home. Direct them to all the print that surrounds us in our everyday lives; be it road signs, menus, messages, posters or signs in shop windows.
Below is a useful link to a video by Jean Gross CBE, (a former teacher, educational psychologist and government advisor). In the clip, she shares her top tips for how parents can help their struggling readers at home.
Related: Reading Aloud: Giving Children the Best Start/Learning to Read: How to Support Your Child’s Journey.
Great tips! Thanks for sharing!
You’re very welcome, Kim! Apologies for my late reply. We went home for the summer and it proved to be far busier that anticipated – but in a good way! Thanks for letting me know that the tips were useful. It”s always good to know what parents want/need so that I can do more of it. If you’re interested, tomorrow’s post has been written by one of my guest educators, about maths and the negative messages that can impact our kids in terms of success. Thanks again for leaving a comment and have a good week!
Both of my kids struggled with learning to read in those early elementary years. For one, it turned out to be a matter of finding the right reading material (something that interested her). For the other kid, it was the right motivation – a computer game that he couldn’t play until he could read the instructions. Once they both got what they needed, they didn’t have any other issues.
Hi Heather. I know I responded to you on this in a FB group, but wanted to say thank you on here too, for sharing your experience. I’m sure that it will be comforting for any other readers whose children are currently going through the same issues. Tomorrow’s post is on maths written by one of my guest educators – but I’m guessing from your comment that your kids are passed that stage! Thanks again for sharing and have a great and productive week!
I like that you mentioned how regularly getting new books for your child can help them stay motivated to read. My son is interested in learning how to read before he attends kindergarten next year, and I want to find some affordable books that are interesting enough for him to read by himself while I am at work during the day. Maybe I should buy some used children’s books to help him stay engaged.
Hi Derek. Thanks for your comment and I’m really glad you found that part of the post helpful. I would definitely recommend getting some used books across a range of genres for him. I’d also recommend getting books from your local library, if you have one. That way, he can explore lots of different types of books without you always having to buy them!