Reading may come naturally to some children, but this statement is far from true for all students. If your child is struggling with one or more aspects of reading, both you and she may feel deeply frustrated. Her difficulty with reading may also color her attitude toward school, and you may wonder how to help her avoid going down this slippery and dangerous slope. While each student is unique, here are four suggestions to consider.
1. Encourage your child to choose her own reading materials
Whether you and your family borrow books from the library, download them on an e-reader or purchase them from a bookstore, the first step to take with a struggling reader is to allow her to choose her own reading materials. A genuine love of learning (and reading) is at least partially the result of passion, and while the classics are deserving of the recognition they receive, they will not interest every student. For instance, if your child likes dinosaurs, she may prefer an age-appropriate biography of a famous paleontologist. If she quickly finishes her first selected book, she just might return for a second.
2. Introduce your student to new formats and genres
The average student reads a combination of fiction (typically realist), nonfiction and poetry in school. However, a number of other formats and genres are less frequently introduced in the classroom. Reading materials that do not immediately strike struggling readers as difficult texts to wade through can provide much-needed motivation, as they can reframe reading as an enjoyable activity. For example, if your child enjoys superhero movies, comic books may be an excellent alternative to a fiction novel. If your student likes sports, a post-game newspaper article may capture her attention while simultaneously building her familiarity with nonfiction texts.
3. Create opportunities for your child to read to others
Practice may not make perfect, but it often makes progress. The key here is to locate or create opportunities for your student to read to others that are not intimidating. For instance, the Humane Society of Missouri offers a program that pairs shelter dogs with children, and similar programs also exist with cats. A dog, another pet, a favorite stuffed animal or a young sibling can serve as the perfect, judgment-free recipient of your student’s reading practice — and the added bonus is that, in some instances, the other party can also benefit!
4. Remember that learning to read is a very complex process
Just as children begin to read at different ages, mastering the process can vary in difficulty and total time from one student to another. What seems impossible for your child today may naturally become clear to her in a week, a month or a year. In the meantime, gentle support — whether that means helping your student select a book, reading with her or setting aside time to speak with her teacher or a reading specialist — can be a powerful tool in your child’s arsenal as she learns to read with fluency and speed.
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