10 Things a Struggling Reader Needs

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
– Dr. Seuss

When I was young, I was in special education. I struggled to read well but it never kept me from being passionate about writing. To be a struggling reader is difficult for any child or adult. It means that they have trouble grasping the concepts of which the words are trying to explain to them. Or, it may mean simply that they have come across a new word and are blocked by it because they don’t understand it. Whatever the case may be, help them along so they can learn to love reading by giving them encouragement. Here’s a list I’ve compiled of things your struggling reader may need.

Daily reading goals. Learning starts at home before your child ever walks into a school. While most parents have chore charts, make a daily reading chart. If your child is struggling to read words, sit beside them. They know you’re available if they need assistance. As the child gets older, you may assign a page limit to read each day. For instance, if they are reading chapter books, have them read ten pages before dinner or before bed. Then, have them write the words they don’t understand on paper so they can learn to spell them. Then you, the parent, can hopefully help explain them.

Have your child read aloud. Struggling readers often skip over words they don’t understand. They may assume what it means by its context and find a suitable replacement to avoid the word altogether. I’ve done both of these growing up. To avoid this, have your child read aloud. This way, when they get to that word that trips them up, you’ll be there to help them along. Make a note of that word and have them put in their reading journal for later. Also, reading aloud gives parents the opportunity to hear if their child has any speech impairments. They are often the first to notice if something is wrong so keep those ears open.

Flashcards. For each word that your child struggles over, put it on a flashcard. A normal 3×5 card should work just fine. On the front, put the word and its part of speech. For example, you may put the cat and two lines underneath write noun. Then, right below that, write an example sentence. This gives your child an opportunity to see the word in context. Once or twice a week roll through these flashcards, removing the ones they no longer struggle with at the time. Add new words that pop up. Not only is this a great vocabulary builder for your child, but you learn new words as well.

Reading journals. For each book your child reads, have them write an entry in a reading journal. What did they like–or not like–about the book? What words did they struggle with? Have them define them and write one example sentence. Then, have them write a 200 word summary of the book. This will help them practice their writing skills as they reflect on their favorite characters, how the plot was full of twists and conflicts, and how much they loved–or hated–the villain. It’s up to you and your child whether or not you look at these journals. For them, however, it’s a great way to grow as a reader and writer.

A library card. The fondest memories of my child take place around family gatherings and the library. Sometimes these were intermixed as we frequented book sales or other places books were present. When I became a teen, I overcame my reading struggles and became a real book nerd. Imagine what your child can do with a library card. They may discover favorite authors for whom they want to follow in their footsteps. Or, they may discover a book that changes their lives. If they have a parent’s encouragement to read and go to the library, then they are more likely to go. Take them yourself and help them pick out books. This is a great way to bond with your child.

Encouragement. I know better than anyone how easy struggling readers like to give up. There have been plenty of times as a kid where I hit words or concepts that were just too hard. But don’t let your child give up; power them with the fuel to keep going. It’s this energy and excitement from their parents that they need to make reading fun. If they think of reading as a struggle then they won’t do it. Why should they? Make it seem awesome. On the reading chart you have made, give them rewards after they finish a certain amount of pages. For instance, you may say once every two chapters your allowance will increase a dollar. Or, you’ll get a dollar more to spend at the bookstore. You could say that after your child finishes a book then they’ll be able to pick out a toy. Give them something to work positive to towards and they’ll do it.

Playing word gamesHow often do you have fun with your child while you’re out together? Depending on their age, there are plenty of word games you can play to increase their learning. For instance, you can play the synonym game with your child. Choose a word and ask your child for a synonym. After a certain amount of points, they get a reward. Also, reading signs and labels will help your child grasp concepts. While many people play the alphabet game or I spy on road trips, apply this game to a shopping trip. You may also want to play games such as Boggle or Scrabble to increase your child’s vocabulary.

Tutoring. If you’re unable to assist your child with their reading, consider hiring a tutor. This individual will usually test your child at first to determine the level at which your child is reading. Then, they will work with your child through a series of exercises. They may even assist your child on homework assignments. Overall, you can expect to see progress in your child as they work with a tutor. They usually have the resources and time to develop learning strategies that best fit your child. They also may be trained in education, either having a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Reading programsLibraries, schools and park districts often offer reading programs for children. You may find them advertised around your town on local billboards or websites. Try meetup.com, for instance. This website has local groups that meet within every zip code. If you have a struggling reader, they may benefit from a reading program. These programs, or the ones I was involved in as a kid, encourage kids to read as many books as possible. The child that reads the most by a certain date often wins something. I was involved in the Reading Rainbow reading program through my school. Then, during the summer, I would take advantage of the library’s reading program.

Technology. Now that I have my iPad and Kindle, I have access to way more books than I ever did as a kid. On my iPad, I have access to iBooks, Nook, and Kindle through apps. This alone puts millions of books at your child’s fingertips. Not to mention apps such as Zinio that give your child access to magazines from the library. Goodreads and your library’s app are just other apps your child can take advantage of while reading. Soon your struggling reader will turn into an amazing reader. You’ll hear yourself saying phrases such as “Don’t make me take your book away” and then ask yourself if you really just said that. Technology is awesome and it may really help your reader get back on top.

Have more tips? Leave them in the comments below.

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