Three Essential Ways to Support Your Struggling Reader

Okay…The news isn’t good.  You’ve seen the report, talked with the teacher and realize that your child is faltering in Reading. Whether this occurs at six or sixteen, it feels like a punch in the stomach as you realize that your child is not proficient in a skill that will profoundly affect his future. Once the shock subsides and you are convinced the school is providing appropriate support, it dawns on you that the buck doesn’t stop there. In spite of limited time and resources, you know that as a parent or grandparent, you must provide some at-home support. In my professional career, I’ve seen this scenario play out many times. One thing I can say for certain is that children who are lucky enough to have proactive, informed and supportive parents, are the ones who make the best progress and grow as readers.  Based on current research and my own experience, here are five essential ways you can help your struggling reader:

  1. TAP INTO YOUR CHILD’S INTERESTS: Consider your child’s preferences and passions, as you gather many kinds of texts that will pique his interest.  Your child is no different than you or me.  Your interests drive your reading choices. I’m just not going to pick up a football magazine and devour it, but my husband will disappear with that very same magazine and not emerge until he’s read it cover to cover. Books, magazines, and news articles on topics of interest can be the gateway to reading for your child. Make it fun, let your child join in the search as you forage through the library, bookstore, or garage sale to find high-interest books to enjoy.
  2. USE A GENTLE APPROACH:  Introduce the joys of literacy through the “back door”.  As parents and grandparents, often our well-meaning intentions often become counter-productive. We are hell bent on helping our child but in the process become overbearing and wind up instilling a strong dislike rather than a love of literacy. When we “lower the boom” and insist on a certain amount of reading each day, attaching rewards or punishments to the task, it backfires. Instead of a heavy-handed approach, why not simply talk with your child and mutually decide on a quiet time to read, either together or aloud. If your child is reading independently, you could read the first few pages aloud and discuss them together, encouraging him to read on his own for another ten or fifteen minutes. Reading aloud has no age barrier. Perhaps, you will read the first part of a news article to your eleven year old, whetting his appetite for the rest of the article. Perhaps you will institute a family read-aloud once or twice a week. Perhaps you will hustle in from the library with several awesome books (picture books included no matter what the age) about a person, a hobby, or a pet that your child loves. No doubt, your child is acutely aware of his reading deficits and already suffers from a bruised ego. The last thing you want to do is create a power struggle about reading when what he really needs is your affirmation, attention, and support. Use your creativity, sneak in the back door, and gently unlock the key to the pleasures of reading for your child. Joining forces with your child in a firm but friendly fashion, will ultimately foster reading improvement in a way that rigid rules never can.
  3. EDUCATE YOURSELF: There is a wealth of material available to help you understand and support your child. Talk to your child’s teacher and the reading specialist at your child’s school, read relevant books, articles, and blogs. Attend parent workshops aimed at fostering literacy in the home and develop a plan to support your child at home, especially during the summer months. Knowledge is power.  A clear understanding of your child’s learning difficulties and methods that offer support is a crucial component of helping to remediate and move your child towards an appropriate reading level.

No one escapes parenthood without having to deal with a host of problems. Much has been done in the area of reading research to shed light on reading difficulties and how to remediate them. In this case, slow but steady wins the race. Maintain a calm, consistent approach, regularly talk to the teacher, affirm and support your child in every way possible and you will see growth and hopefully, instill a love of reading at the same time.  A problem shared is a problem cut in half. If your child struggles with reading, please share your comments and anything that has helped you cope and support his reading  journey.

About Rita K.

Educator and Certified Reading specialist
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