In our previous Reading Rx article, Sara shared insight for teaching children who are natural or accelerated readers. I wonder how many read that article, with a fluttering heart and deep sense of doom? Reading along, did you find your mind wandering to “What am I doing wrong? My child can barely read chapter books.” If this describes you, take heart and keep reading!
Briefly, let me share a bit of our story. As a homeschool mom, who taught her children from Kindergarten through high school graduation, I was blessed with children who were as different as night and day. Child A was my academically advanced child who would have blossomed through Sara’s insights. Child B: Oh! My dear, sweet child B. This child learned to read through much blood, sweat and tears….his and mine! Countless phonics programs and guide books, hours spent reading aloud–a process lasting nearly 4 years–until one miraculous day in February when he picked up the book Child A was reading and began to read the next chapter aloud. Tears flowed and celebration ensued!
Struggling Readers. So much has been written: yet, so much more needs to be. As the mom of a struggling reader, my goal is to offer words of wisdom. More than this, I seek to impart hope to you (and your child!). Understanding the struggling reader is multifaceted. As you look to your child, consider his or her age and maturity level. While it is true that many boys mature at a slower pace than girls, this is not always the case. Each of our children is a unique individual. We need to become students of our children, learning their strengths and weaknesses, while keeping an eye on their self-esteem. Struggling readers intuitively recognize they are not at the level of their siblings or peers. As a teacher you long to press on toward reading success. However, as a parent, your heart breaks for them. Let me encourage your parent heart to rule. Home is the best place for a struggling reader to thrive. Below are various ‘tried and true’ methods for struggling readers.
Reading aloud is a proven method for reading success and this applies to rising readers of any age. Choose books to read that are high interest to your children, but at least one level above their current reading level. As you read, use a piece of paper, your finger, or a reading-guide strip to isolate the sentence(s) being read. Help children associate the sounds/words to their word “picture.” Another benefit of reading aloud is modeling good reading. Good reading brings the book alive through voice inflections and pacing. Contrary to popular belief, good reading is not reading the text completely without error. Rather, good reading will help children visualize (comprehend) the story, leading them to understand that meaning is communicated through their expression and word emphasis.
Provide a wide range of reading materials for your children: books, magazines or Zoobooks, newspapers (even the comics!), internet articles or computer reading games. The goal is to engage them in the reading process. Older readers may enjoy poetry or a Reader’s Theater with read aloud parts to experience the story first hand. Allow your child to choose what they want to read. While you may not see any educational value in cartoons or Car and Driver magazine, benefits abound from reducing stress (reading with joy!) in order to building stamina with reading.
Play Games! Rhyming games are an excellent media for learning word families, suffixes and prefixes. Build on this concept, and have children tell goofy stories with a given rhyme pattern. Play Mystery Word. Gather a word from a reading or spelling lesson. Tell students you are thinking of a word and give them clues to solve the mystery word. For example, Clue #1 could be, “I am thinking of a word with 5 letters.” Clue #2: It begins with a consonant. Clue #3: Name the consonant, and so on. Offer points depending on the quickness of response. Allow them to earn prizes. Hangman is another popular game that will reinforce reading and spelling words. Bingo cards can be purchased or made at home. Sight Word Bingo is an excellent tool for those tough words.
Provide time for dialogue. Discussing books (or magazine articles) is excellent for assessing reading comprehension. It also provides struggling readers with an outlet to safely share vocabulary or difficulties in conceptual understanding. Dialogue also stirs their reading interest as they passionately share their interests with you–interests that are fed through outside reading. Older children may enjoy a book club with peers. While some struggling learners may find book clubs intimidating, others will relish the chance to share their thoughts and opinions on the book. Older struggling readers will need encouragement to participate in book club. Pick a book that is at (or even slightly below their level). Remember the goal is to promote reading skills and enjoyment. Begin the book club by reading a chapter aloud. Be energetic and use inflection. Ask open-ended questions about the characters or events. Ask their opinions. As their confidence grows, transition them to back up their opinions with page numbers and paragraphs to support their opinion. Ask them questions such as, “Why do you think this? What evidence from the book shows this to be true?” Guide them to higher-level thinking.
You will notice I did not cover reading programs, intervention programs or reading disabilities. This was intentional, returning to the initial premise above: each child is unique, and selecting a reading or intervention program is best done individually. Ultimately, you know your child best. You know their strengths and weaknesses. You know their greatest need. We are here to personally assist you as you narrow the options and find the best fit for your child. Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via live chat or at 1-888-841-3456.
Enjoy the reading journey. Snuggle together on the couch, and savor a good book together. Your struggling reader will learn to read, although it may take time (and possibly a little blood, sweat and tears like my youngest). Remember, homeschooling is the best possible environment for your child. In your homeschool, they will not be labeled or left behind. Through homeschooling, you can provide the one-on-one interaction necessary for success or even the special accommodations along with the loving acceptance and encouragement that all children need.