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Strategies For Struggling Readers
Are you looking for effective teaching strategies for you struggling readers?
For many children, traditional reading instruction strategies are effective. Unfortunately, however, those same strategies are also just as ineffective for others.
Same lessons and methods
When we continue to use the same lessons and methods, these kids begin to believe that they are bad readers. They mentally give up due to frustration.
Who wants to repetitively engage in an activity that causes tears, anxiety and frustration?
The last thing we want is for any of our children to struggle with and hate reading. We know the value and importance of reading, but often hit a wall when we run out of strategies for our struggling reader.
The Value of Reading
Fortunately, as a society we espouse the importance of literacy for all children. That statement is definitely true on the surface. However, when we dig deeper into how we equip children to read, many begin to think differently.
It is not uncommon in our educational culture to determine that a child is “behind” in reading at ages as early as 6 or 7. This message is communicated to Mom or Dad with an urgency that reading needs to improve quickly in order to be “ready for the next grade level.”
Arguably, we are standing on a dangerous precipice when we make these judgement calls based upon one modality of reading instruction and age alone. We must begin to view effective reading instruction with the child’s “wiring” in mind.
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Adults who needed a different approach
How many children do you know who think they “hate reading”?
Now think about the many adults that to this day won’t even think of picking up a book as a form of entertainment because they think they too hate reading. Many adults explain that they were never good at reading when they were in school. I argue that they were likely not equipped in a way that they could process and understand.
If we want to prevent the next generation from falling into the reading is the enemy trap, then we must be willing to explore alternative teaching strategies for struggling readers.
Unrealistic expectations of our children
One of the side-effects of unrealistic and inappropriate benchmarks is anxiety-ridden parents scrambling to make their child to read just like everyone else.
These children struggle even more when pushed to read using a strategy that inherently conflicts with the way they learn.
Additionally, parents often make themselves crazy running their kiddos to various academic interventions in a desperate attempt to keep up with the student Joneses.
Unfortunately, if this occurs early on in a child’s education or becomes the pattern year after year, our kids learn something. They learn that they hate learning and that they are “dumb.” Consequently, the idea of picking up a book causes tears, anxiety and frustration for the child (and mom or dad).
Likewise, very few adults have the capacity to fight an uphill battle every day. As such, why do we force immature children to learn a skill that they may not be developmentally able to accomplish yet?
When they are 18?
Will the chronological age a child learns to read fluently matter to anyone when he is 18?
Life is a gift given to us by God Himself. Life is a journey. No two people are exactly the same.
Ultimately, a child who grows up feeling “behind” can easily believe himself incapable of learning.
Forcing children to push through advanced reading material based on grade level benchmarks without equipping them with foundational reading skills is dangerous in more ways than one.
Sadly, Learned helplessness is a real force that creates its own set of mental health issues. This ultimately costs far more than whether a child reads on grade-level at age 7, 8 or even 10.
Neurodiversity: Strategies for struggling readers
Our brains, like our bodies, develop differently and at varying times.
- Would we ever shame a young 14 year-old girl because her body isn’t as developed as other girls her age?
- Would we tell a young man that he is not achieving his potential if his voice was still an octave higher than his peers?
Of course not.
Why then do this to our children when it comes to brain development and its impact on their reading skills?
Reading in their own time
I am aware of many children who had no interest in reading at age 7 or even 8, but at 10 years old became passionate and completely literate readers. Read Better Late Than Early for additional insight.
Imagine where those kids would be if they believed they were “behind” and needed to hurry up.
What about the psychological impacts of constant perceived failures affect the long-term academic success of a child?
There are many variables at play in the effectiveness of teaching strategies which is why it is critical that adults seek out alternative strategies for struggling readers.
One effective teaching strategy for struggling readers involves the Orton-Gillingham (OG) method.
The OG method is a multi-sensory teaching approach that targets multiple senses within the child’s brain.
For example, the Orton-Gillingham strategy may have a child learn basic phonics sounds in the following way:
- the child sees a letter,
- builds the letter with clay,
- and says the corresponding letter sounds aloud
In this example, the child would receive the reading content through his visual, kinesthetic and auditory systems.
Alternative reading strategy for struggling readers
One reading curriculum that uses the OG strategy for struggling readers is All About Reading. This entire line of learning materials is highly effective, engaging and laid out beautifully for both parent teacher and student alike.
All About Learning company is an excellent resource for curriculum as well as educational materials for parents and educators.
All About Learning has two programs lines, each complementing one another:
- All About Spelling and
- All About Reading
These two programs are both incredibly effective tools for reading instruction for struggling readers.
I cannot more highly recommend All About Learning press for any child struggling with traditional reading approaches. The curriculum materials include:
- The hands-on letter tiles,
- the systematic flash card system (unlike any I have ever used) that equips the learner with intentional and incremental instruction,
- and step-by-step teaching guides provided for parent teachers.
Be Willing to Think Outside-the-Box
There are many options to approach reading for struggling readers.
Ultimately, the goal of education should be to equip our kids with what they need based on their own unique wiring so that thrive as a whole person throughout adulthood.
It is crucial for parents to be armed with information about alternative reading strategies in order to serve all children. When expectation for all children to fit inside the educational box is removed, stress is reduced and our struggling readers begin to make traction.
Reading aloud TO your child as a reading strategy
In addition to seeking out alternative reading curriculum, I highly recommend reading aloud to your struggling reader. Reading aloud to your child will yield incredible fruit including:
- Language development
- Reading comprehension skills
- Exposure to rich vocabulary
- Deepened family connection and so much more…
We must ease up on our kids
We often push and push our children to read aloud regardless of their capability. We do this because we are “afraid” that they SHOULD be reading at this point. Mom often thinks,
Everyone is telling me she should be able to read.
I am a bad mom if I don’t force her to do it. All the other kids can.
Remember your goal. If you want your child to confidently read, you may need to ease up in order to move forward.
Give your child the gift of enjoying the blessing of books.
No pressure. No stress. Just joy.
Read aloud to your child and get lost in story together so that your child can fall in love with books.
An inherent love for reading will take your child millions of miles ahead than forced reading under duress.
Celebrate diversity: Effective strategies for struggling readers
People are unique in so many ways. This diversity includes our neurodiversity. We all learn in different ways and excel when allowed to learn based on our own wiring.
Therefore, teachers and parents need to be equipped with appropriate strategies for struggling readers. If our goal is to equip our children to become literate learners, we must be willing to think outside-the-box.
Thank God there are so many reading options out there.