Helping a Struggling Reader

Lori Hearn
Many children struggle to read. For some, it is developmental, and they may simply grow out of it. One day the light bulb for reading comes on, and they can do it. For others who have a disability, reading can be a lifelong struggle. There are tools that can be put in place for struggling readers.
These can apply to both the children with a diagnosed disability and the child who just struggles to read. Reading struggles can be broken into two different areas: fluency, which is the ability to read printed text with ease; and comprehension, which is the ability to comprehend what is being read. Both of these pieces, fluency and comprehension, work together. Struggles with comprehension as the text gets more difficult will be evident if the student is not fluent with reading. If they are unable to read the text, they will not be able to understand the content. This is why there is such a strong push with phonics and sight words in grades K-2. Third grade is when the transition to reading comprehension begins. This week, I will focus on comprehension.

Reading Comprehension- If your child(ren) struggles with reading comprehension, there are several things you can put in place to help them be successful. I always recommend the Audible app to my students who struggle with reading comprehension. This app allows the students to listen to the book as they are reading it on the screen of their device. Seeing and hearing the words being read helps students, or anyone for that matter, understand what they are reading. For a younger reader, read the story first, then give your child the opportunity to read it. This helps with fluency as well as comprehension. As you are reading with your child, stop every so often and do a comprehension check with them. Ask them questions like, “What just happened?” or have them relate to the characters’ feelings by asking, “Has there ever been a time you have felt scared, sad, happy, etc…like the character in the book? Tell me about that.”  Ask them about where and when the story takes place. You can even relate whatever you are reading back to an event in their own life by saying things like, “Remember when you went on a plane for the first time like the book character?” All of these questions will help your child(ren) remember what they have read. As your reader gets older, have them write summaries of the chapters on sticky notes and stick them at the end of the chapters. Then when test time comes, they can review their notes. Most importantly, keep reading to your child or continue to encourage them to listen to books they will enjoy. If they begin getting frustrated or tired, take over the reading. Break large reading passages into smaller chunks so they are not overwhelmed by the number of words on the page. Reading can be very difficult, but with different strategies in place you can ease the burden tremendously. Be blessed!