Parent and family tips to help struggling readers

Although many readers who are struggling can benefit from additional help and support at school or from other community resources, it is important for family members and friends to be supportive at home and on a daily basis. Here are some ways that we can help the young (or not so young) readers in our lives who need some extra support.        

  1. Read every day for at least 20 minutes. When your child reads independently, make sure the book is at an appropriate level. “If the reader makes more than one or two errors for every ten words they read, then the book is too hard.” 
  2. Listen to audiobooks. Audiobooks model reading fluency and introduces readers to books above their current reading level. Readers can read along with the audiobook as well.  “Hearing the story helps readers visualize their reading, which is central to enjoying the reading experience.”
  3. Talk about what they are reading. This helps check for comprehension. “Make sure the reader understands the content.”
  4. Repetition builds fluency, so rereading books can be a positive thing. “If the reader enjoys poetry or Readers Theater or anything that lends itself to multiple readings and oral practice, these kinds of reading experiences help build fluency.”
  5. Give your children a variety of reading experiences. “This means time when the family reads together, building relationships and practicing reading skills. Also, if a child is excited about a new movie coming out that’s based on a book, read the book and talk about the similarities and differences between the two.”
  6. Expand the reading options available at home. “Many reluctant readers prefer nonfiction texts. Graphic novels and comic books require children to read visual images and texts together, which some students enjoy. Others like reading young adult novels instead of books considered classics.”
  7. E-books are a good way to encourage reluctant readers to read. “Struggling and reluctant readers often feel overwhelmed with the size of books, the fonts, and sometimes the thickness. Page numbers can be a huge detriment. E-books solve this problem because they cater to those who are technologically savvy, eliminate the need to carry around a huge book, and provide easy access to dictionaries and other resources.”
  8. Be patient as your child learns to read. “Sometimes kids just need a little more time and practice to develop their skills. Parents who are willing to invest time and provide encouragement help their children make up the gap.”
  9. Communicate with the other adults in your child’s education, especially her teacher and school administration. “Teachers and administrators want to be partners with you in your child’s education.” 
  10. Volunteer time or resources to support students at school. “Volunteer to read with students. Every teacher I know who works with struggling readers could use a book budget, so if you want to donate funds to a local classroom, there are plenty in need.”
  11. Play to your own strengths. “The parents and community members who make the most difference in the lives of these readers educate themselves about the needs of struggling readers and then find a way to use their own talents and resources to help those they love.”

Tips courtesy of reading expert Dawan Coombs.