We often think of reading as a child issue, but realistically, many students leave elementary school as struggling readers. This can happen for many reasons. Maybe your child has a reading disability such as dyslexia, or maybe they moved from one school to another and during that time, they missed some information that hadn’t been taught at their previous school and had already been taught at their new school. (This is especially true if a child moves from one state to another or out of the country.) Maybe he/she had a year in which his/her teacher didn’t know the best methods to help them catch up, leaving them even further behind. Regardless of the reason, it is most important that you intervene now. The earlier you start to help your child catch up, the better chance they have to succeed in school and in reading beyond this point. The worst thing you can do is ignore it, or leave it to the school alone to deal with. Even if your child’s school has an incredible intervention plan in place, your struggling reader still needs practice at home. I’ve also found that reading intervention opportunities decrease significantly once a child leaves elementary school, so if your child is older than sixth grade, you may have to shoulder the responsibility for their reading intervention. Don’t be intimidated by this, I can help you create a plan to guide them to success. Here are a few general tips to help you get started!
- Have your child read for fun. This may be a significant challenge at this age because reading sometimes has a reputation for being “uncool,” and this is the age in which “cool” is so very important. You just have to be sneaky about how you get them to read by helping them find something they love. Maybe it’s a Sports Illustrated magazine or celebrity gossip magazine. There are also so many series for teenagers, and if you can get your child hooked into a series, that will provide motivation for an extended period of time. Hunger Games, Twilight, Harry Potter, The Selection are some of the most popular. If these books are too hard for your child to read alone, it is still okay for you to read to them or with them. That may be really sweet time for you to spend with your child. Another option is audio books. Thankfully, technology today allows us to have access to audio files on our mobile devices or electronic notebooks so that your child can listen to a book anywhere he/she is. This has two valuable implications if done correctly. 1) It brings them into the conversation that other students are having about books and 2) It improves their word recognition, reading speed ( called fluency) and comprehension. The important thing here is that the student has a copy of the book in front of him/her as he/she is listening to the audio book. There is some audiobook software that puts the text on the screen as it is spoken (learningally.com is the one I am most familiar with), but it is easy to just download the book and buy a hard copy of it as well.
- Teach them to use the “read and note” method when reading for school. This may be a struggle to convince them to do now, but if they learn it now, they will be much more successful readers in the future. (Arguably, even more successful than their peers with whom reading has always come naturally.) Here’s the read and note method: When reading something very carefully for school, they stop every 3-5 sentences, ask themselves “What was this part about?” and write a few words in the margin (or on a sticky note) and put it next to those sentences. This is valuable for a few reasons. 1) when they have finished reading, they can review all of their notes and have a pretty well written summary of the text 2) If they need to locate something that happened in the story, they can look back through their notes instead of having to re-read the entire passage. And most importantly 3) if they are unable to write a few words about what the sentences they read were about, they likely didn’t understand it, and this signals to them that they need to re-read just those few sentences. The beauty of number 3 is that oftentimes, children grow up being very comfortable with reading words that they don’t understand, finishing the passage or story, and having no idea at all what they just read. This is a habit that has to be broken in order to be a successful college reader. As students get more comfortable with this method, they can instead take notes every paragraph or at every section header. If they are unable to think of what to write, they need to stop and re-read it more slowly to make sense of it, go back in class lecture notes to read the section on the same topic, or ask for help. Another advantage of “read and note” is that in taking the time to stop and consider what has been read and writing it down, it improves memory retention of the information, which will contribute to easier studying later.
- Your child may benefit from remedial reading instruction. Oftentimes, if students have “gaps” in reading knowledge, those gaps do not improve until instruction has filled them in. This requires an assessment of needs to determine where the student’s weaknesses are and interventions accordingly. If this is you or your child, please look into my coaching options so that I can develop a plan to help you or your child catch up to college level. It is entirely possible to help them to catch up by strengthening their reading skills, and the earlier you start, the better chance your child has at reading improvement!
Leave a comment if you have a child who has benefitted from any of these tips!