Five Strategies for Supporting Struggling Readers

Although reading can be fun and engaging, it doesn’t come naturally to all children. Fortunately, 90% to 95% of children can overcome reading difficulties if they receive appropriate instruction (Reading Teacher). 

Difficulties in reading can arise from a couple of different sources: a learning disability (such as dyslexia), an underdeveloped vocabulary, poor reading instruction, lack of interest in reading, or inadequate phonemic awareness (working with individual sounds in spoken words).

Sight Words Chart Page

Here are a few strategies you can use when working with a struggling reader. Remember that every child is different, so you may need to experiment before finding an effective method.  

  1. Evaluate

 It is important to determine which areas are the most challenging for a child.

Observe the child as they read aloud. Pay attention to their pauses, and the words they have trouble reading. Do they understand the general idea of the text? Do they understand the individual words in the text?

Once you know where the gaps are, you can better support the child.

2. Choose books of the right reading level 

If the books are too easy, there will be no growth. If they are too complicated, the child will fail to read them. It is important to gauge a child’s reading level and give them the appropriate books.

The book may be too hard if:

  • the child makes more than one reading error in 10 words
  • the child encounters more than 5 hard words on one page
  • the child has no understanding of the text (no comprehension)

3. Allow the child to choose the reading material

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Comic books can be gateways to reading for children with reading difficulties

When children are interested in a book, they take the initiative to read it, which benefits them in the long run. Remember, practice makes better! Give them some elbow room in selecting the books they will read (even if they are picture books or comic books).

4. Use alternative teaching methods

Not all children learn the same way. For example, some children learn best with visuals and others are auditory learners.

For visual learners, a bunch of words on a page can be confusing. Instead, use pictures to express meaning. Discuss the book’s illustrations with them, or have them draw images of what they think the story was about. 

You can also use relevant YouTube videos (like our Sound Series videos). 

One of our Sound Series songs; this one teaches the short vowel O sound.

Audiobooks are particularly helpful for children with dyslexia (Defeat Dyslexia). They allow children to focus more on creating meaning and less on decoding, and act as models for fluent reading. For older children, audiobooks can establish a love for reading.

Alternatively, use touch! Trace some tricky words on paper and have children cut them out as they learn them. 

Another activity that children enjoy is acting out a book they have read. For example, when kids make and play with the “cars” (the cars are tires) that Jomo used in Jomo’s Car, it’s always a fun time. 

5. Do not exclude struggling readers

During class/group discussions, do not allow the child to feel left out. If necessary, allow the child to read/listen to the reading material before the discussion time. This way, the child will be able to participate in the session.

Bonus tips:

  • Don’t be too hard on your child! Reading is meant to be enjoyed, and students with reading difficulties can enjoy it too, they just might need more time and effort. 
  • Children, especially older ones, know that they struggle. This may affect their reading confidence, especially when they are assessed the same way their classmates are. Remind them that difficulty with reading has nothing to do with intelligence. 

We hope these tips will be useful. If you have additional tips, leave a comment down below! 

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