For some children, learning how to read is easy peasy and seems to happen overnight.
But for the struggling reader, it feels more like ending up on the Titanic.
And when you are homeschooling or trying to help that struggling reader, you may also feel completely hopeless. Especially if nothing you have tried seems to be working.
Which is why I want to pull up beside you, give you a hug, and then rescue you with these life-saving tips to help your struggling reader.
So, I just want to start off by saying that if your child is struggling to learn how to read, it is going to be ok. I’ve talked to many moms who have a struggling reader, just like you. Often, they feel like they are completely alone, and are not sure if they will ever be able to help their child learn how to read. But reading is a struggle for many children. In the US, only 1/3 of the fourth graders are reading at a proficient level.
So, I just want to let you know that you are not alone. And you can help your struggling reader learn how to read.
Here are 9 tips to help your struggling reader, starting with this first important one.
Be patient with reading
Here’s the thing: in the grand scheme of life, exactly when your child learns to read matters much less than the fact that they learn how to read. And if you are homeschooling your child, you usually have more time to help your child master reading without the fear of them being held back, ridiculed, or inaccurately labeled. There are definitely cases when you may need to get outside help for reading, such as severe dyslexia or other processing difficulties. But many times a struggling reader may just need a little more time to work on all of the key components in learning how to read.
So if everyone else’s children or all your other kiddos learned how to read faster than this one, one thing you should do is to be patient. Then try this next thing too.
Find a good reading program
You also need to find a reading program and method that works well for you and your child, especially if you are homeschooling. There are lots of choices out there. But the programs that seem to work best for struggling readers spend time learning and reviewing all of the phonemic sounds and sight words.
It’s also important to consider your child’s learning style when choosing the reading program. That way you know if you need one with more visual, auditory, or kinesthetic elements.
Here are some programs that work very well with struggling readers:
- Charlotte Mason’s Delightful Reading
- All about Reading
- Logic of English
- Sing, Spell, Read and Write
Make reading active and fun
One of the biggest game changers I have seen in teaching a child to read is to make reading fun by using games, songs, and lots of hands-on activities. Some reading programs include these ideas, which makes that easier to do.
But, honestly, you can make almost any reading lesson more active and fun with this simple trick. Write down the words, letters, and phonics sounds that your reader is struggling with on index cards. Then practice them with some hands-on activities and games like these:
- Hop and Say: Hop on each card and read each one or hop on the correct one that you say.
- Hide and Seek: Hide the cards and have your reader find and read each one.
- Hit the Word: Toss a bouncy ball at the cards and read each one that gets hit or toss a small object at cards in a muffin tin and read each one you hit.
I have also found the simple reading activities that Peggy Kaye describes in her book Games for Reading to be very helpful with struggling readers. And Crossing the Midline exercises are also great ways to begin each reading session with some fun and helpful activity.
Cultivate a desire to read
Another thing that helps is to cultivate your child’s desire to read. It is really important to show your struggling reader that reading is actually useful and helpful in every area of life.
You can show your child how much reading helps you throughout your day when you are cooking, shopping, working, and relaxing. Include your reader in these tasks by letting them help you read the recipe or grocery list, or sit beside you and read with you for pleasure. Incorporate and highlight reading in any activities that your child enjoys. For example, let them find words or help you read through the steps in a cool science experiment or new craft project.
Here are a few more ideas to help you cultivate that desire for reading:
- take them on “dates” to bookstores to look at and pick out a new book
- buy a book as a gift for their birthday or as a reward for reading
- take them to the library and let them choose some books of their choosing
Be consistent with reading
Consistently working on reading with your struggling child is one more thing that really can make a huge difference. Which is understandably easier said than done. Especially when you have other children or responsibilities that you need to devote time to as well. And when reading is not coming easily, your child may not be begging you for extra help to practice those words or sounds each day.
But practice really does make perfect. Or at least a reader who is making progress. Here are three things you can do to help you consistently work on reading with your child:
- Schedule multiple sessions each week to work with your child, and then do everything in your power to make sure to they actually happen.
- Review any lessons beforehand, and prepare any games or activities you will be using.
- Choose a quiet time and space to work, and eliminate as many distractions as possible.
Make reading personal
Making reading personal has been a game changer with the struggling readers I have tutored and can help your child as well. Doing everything you can to make those difficult sounds and words relate personally to your kiddo really helps them become invested in the reading process.
For example, give them some tricky sounds and sight words, index cards, and some colored pencils. Let them write each word on one side, and their own sentence using the word on the other side complete with a picture. Then, practice these words using a game or fun activity, such as the ones mentioned above. They can add a check mark around the edge each time they read it correctly to see their progress. Have them keep all of their words alphabetized in their own word box so they can watch their reading vocabulary grow.
You can also use a draw and write journal to let your child create a picture and then write a few sentences or short story about it. Help them spell any difficult words. Have them include some of the words they have been struggling to read, but let them personalize the story. And the sillier the better! Then let them read their personalized story to you or someone else in the family.
Read aloud together
Whether you are using the readers included in your reading program or other good readers or books, sit together and read aloud with your child as often as possible. Even if you do not choose the All about Reading program, their readers are excellent as well as the other beginning reader books listed at Read Aloud Revival.
Here are some other great beginning books:
And make sure you are reading aloud quality books to your child that are above their reading level too. Read Aloud Revival has some wonderful suggestions. Let them choose some of the books about topics they are interested in and read those books to them or with them. And if you can’t always sit and read aloud together, use audiobooks.
Focus on and celebrate progress
Focus on the overall progress your struggling reader is making, even if they are not yet at their grade level. There will most likely be some really good days and others that you’d rather forget. Learning how to decode and read words requires many baby steps with lots of practice in between which takes time. Focusing on and celebrating this progress is key.
One way to focus on the progress is to record video or audio clips of your child reading a short passage at different points in the year. This lets you can look back or listen and see how much progress has been made, especially on a rough day. You can also use these videos during your homeschool evaluation to show progress made over the school year.
And celebrate that progress with your child, no matter how small it is. Go out of your way to encourage your kiddo to keep learning how to read by reminding your child of sounds and words that are getting easier. Use your child’s love language and their input to find the best ways to help celebrate each baby step in reading.
Don’t give up
One last thing I want to encourage you is not to give up. Of all of the struggling readers I have tutored or met with for homeschool evaluations, every single one has learned how to read. Sometimes, reading seemed to click all at once and sometimes they struggled for a while. But having someone like you devoted to doing everything possible to encourage and help them learn how to read without giving up — that’s what makes the biggest difference. It’s not always easy, but it will be worth all of your time and sacrifice.
And don’t be afraid to get help if you aren’t seeing any progress or you find you can’t do it on your own. I would love to connect with you and help you with your struggling reader.
I hope these tips help and encourage you with your struggling reader. You can do this! Comment below with any other tips and reading resources that have helped your kiddos overcome their reading struggles.