The sad truth – and there’s no way to be delicate here – is that poor readers pay a terrible emotional price in and out of school. Also, kids who can’t read well struggle in school every single day of their lives and their futures can be bleak too. In order to fill out a job application, read safety manuals, and to understand rules and directions young adults need to be able to read and write so they can get, keep, and be good at a job. Not every child should go to college but trade schools require reading too.
Does your child love to get up in the morning and can’t wait to get to school? Or, do you see him or her balk at the idea of “another day of school?”
School is both an academic and social place and kids want to fit in. Poor readers are embarrassed every day because they know and their classmates are fully aware that they cannot read well. That may be decoding words and/or understanding all the ideas that are hidden within a text. Can you imagine the panic of a poor reader when the teacher goes up and down rows of kids asking them to read a part of a book aloud? These kids shrink down into their chairs, heads hung low, praying they don’t get called on – wanting to be invisible. Struggling readers often react to their feelings of insecurity by being the class clown or being aggressive to classmates.
Do not despair, however, because there is much you can do at home to help them. In fact, my ideas are what I call “Lessons in disguise” because they are enjoyable for kids and parents. I will try to address tips and tricks that I’ve learned over 20 years of working in schools.
To be polite, we teachers use words like “poor readers” and “struggling readers.” Even in the early grades, you have probably heard the teachers tell you that your child is struggling with reading which has been proven by test grades and report card assessments. Perhaps you have been told to think about a tutor, get the child tested by a doctor, agree to in-school remediation, or make sure your kid reads more at home. All good advice and we will explore these ideas later.
But, here’s the thing – kids who struggle with reading are very aware that they are “less than” their peers and, sadly, they will start to have emotional manifestations of their struggles both in school and at home. You can help them in unexpected ways at home.
If you could be a fly on the classroom wall, these are some things you might see:
- Frequent visits to the bathroom
- Frequent visits to the Nurse’s Office
- Acting out in anger and frustration towards other kids
- Becoming withdrawn and isolated from other kids
- Shrinking down in seats in an effort to become “invisible” during class read-aloud time
As a Reading Specialist working in schools with kids from K-12, I am writing this to encourage you – as a parent, caregiver, or other adult – to be aware of the signs and know what to do. At home you might see a constant rebellion at doing homework and “fake” reading during at-home reading time which is often a homework requirement.
The purpose of this Blog is to share with you what I have learned in over 20 years working with struggling readers.
- First, start a sincere and open dialogue with your child’s teacher and the school’s Reading Specialist.
- Talk to your child honestly and be supportive by assuring that you are going to work together to fix this as best you can.
- Talk to your child’s doctor about the need for additional testing by a specialist. Be aware that there are very real problems that cause kids to struggle with Reading and specific programs that help. Sometimes schools will pay for the testing.
- If in-school remediation is recommended, ask questions about it – will it specifically address your child’s reading problem. A Phonics-based program, for example, will not help if your child is deemed to have a comprehension or recalling information problem.
- When considering a tutor or a commercial tutoring center, find out if he or she is experienced in what your child needs (ie. phonics, memory, speech/language delays, comprehension, etc.). They should not be a paid homework companion but a teacher who actually teaches your kids to read better.
- Before insisting that your child “read more” at home, know your child’s current reading level (based on school tests usually done twice yearly to all students). I write often about reading levels (now called Lexile levels). More tips in upcoming Blogs.
- Be aware that there is much you can do at home. In this Blog, I will try to give practical, quick, and easy tips to help you make home Reading more enjoyable, practical, and instructional.
Some of the topics I will cover on this Blog are:
- How to read age-appropriate picture books for optimum instruction and pleasure (don’t freak out of the use of picture books – I will show you how to use them for kids of ALL ages. It is not what you think, so hang in there.)
- How to build reading stamina
- How to increase reading fluency
- How to help your kids choose appropriate books
- How to build vocabulary
- How to motivate your child to love books
- How to show your kids how to find hidden meaning
So, if you could be a fly on the classroom wall today you might see something concerning if your child is a poor reader. Stick with me, send me your questions, and together we can increase your child’s reading.
Unfortunately, some children have serious learning disabilities that require specialized remediation. Some children need Special Education services. Even so, there is much you can do at home.
Next time, I will share with you my favorite topic in the world – how to use picture books to make your kids read smarter. I will include some real-life examples too.