Research tells us that it is vital to read with and to our children from a very young age. Even time spent talking with our children helps to set the stage for intellectual growth and language development. Experts say that the amount of talk a child hears from birth through age three directly attributes to their academic successes at ages nine and ten.
We know that when a child struggles with reading, it doesn’t just affect their performance in reading or English class. Students who have reading difficulties often struggle in other subjects as well because reading is so integral to learning in almost all fields. When reading challenges are not addressed, a child will frequently grow to dislike school because they feel that they’re “not good at it.”
While we may know this information, when it comes to our own child struggling with reading, we are often unsure of what to do or how to help. If your child’s teacher raises concerns, or you notice that your child is struggling with or is very resistant to reading, it may be time to take some action. Here are a few tips for helping your struggling reader at home.
It Can Be More Than Just Comprehension
Often when we think of a child struggling with reading, we imagine they read but do not comprehend what they’ve read. While this may indeed be the case, young readers may struggle with a variety of factors. Reading consists of more than just comprehension. Children can struggle with fluency, phonemic awareness, phonics, and vocabulary as well. It’s important to keep this in mind and work with your child’s teacher to determine precisely where the issue lies to address it appropriately.
Make It Fun
Helping your child improve their reading doesn’t need to be frustrating. Know that your child will make mistakes and that those mistakes are okay. Being patient with your child will help them view reading as an enjoyable experience rather than a negative one. Don’t solely focus on what they’re doing wrong; make sure to celebrate even small successes. Becoming frustrated and constant criticism will only serve to demotivate your child and increase their anxiety about reading.
Let Them Choose
We may think that we need to make our children read more books, but it is essential to remember that books are not the only reading materials available. Let them choose. Some children will be drawn to magazines or comics much quicker than a book – particularly struggling readers because the added visuals are helpful and exciting. Even websites can provide opportunities to engage struggling readers. Allowing your child the freedom to choose what they read can help motivate them to read more and strengthen their skills. This goes for reading topics as well. If your child enjoys reading about dragons and castles, avoid pushing them to read something else.
Make It Relevant
Literacy skills are about more than just getting a good grade on the report card. Point out the connections between reading skills and everyday activities. Showing kids that reading is a regular part of daily life can increase their motivation. Have them write a letter to a family member, leave a note about where they’re going before they leave the house, keep a grocery list, etc. Set aside time to read every day and make it a part of their routine.
Have your child read aloud to you, their baby brother, the family pet. Not only does this provide them with practice, but it also gives them an audience and can help build confidence in their abilities.
Lead By Example
It’s always good when your child has the opportunity to see you reading for pleasure. It reinforces the idea that reading can be fun and something done for entertainment. Take time to talk with your child about what you’re reading. Share how you overcome difficulties as you read. Demonstrating reading skills for your child also helps to normalize the challenges in reading – showing them that everyone struggles now and then. It can be a real confidence booster.
If your child struggles with reading, make sure to keep an open line of communication with their teachers. You don’t have to wait until the report card comes home to schedule a conference or seek tutoring. And remember, you are your child’s first teacher. What you do at home can make a difference in your child’s educational success.
Dr. Edward S. Thalheimer is the President and Founder of The Tutoring Franchise Corp. If you would like further information about how to help children who need educational assistance, please go to www.tutoringcenter.com.