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Tips and Strategies: How to Help if You Have Students Who Struggle with Reading

written by: Keren Perles • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 9/11/2012

Does your child seem to have problems reading on grade level? You can help him succeed in learning how to read fluently. Use these strategies to help students who struggle with reading.

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    Identify the Problem

    Reading is not really one skill. Instead, it consists of the application of many skills, including letter recognition, decoding, vocabulary knowledge, fluency, comprehension, and the ability to focus attention on something and keep it there. Your child may have difficulty with one or more of these skills. The goal is to try to break the steps down to identify where the students who struggle with reading are having a problem.

    Is she able to recognize letters? Can she identify the sounds that each letter makes? Can she blend the sounds together to make a word? Does she read disjointedly (which would point to a lack of fluency)? Is she unfamiliar with the meanings of the words that she is reading? Or does she read all of the words and know what they mean but not comprehend what she’s read? Identify the exact area(s) that your child is struggling with in order to make sure that your reading plan for her will be on target.

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    Create a Team Plan

    Bring your observations to your child’s teacher or counselor and discuss what you can do together to help your child learn to read. Ask if the school offers any special services that your child can take advantage of. Then sit down with your child and discuss a motivational plan to help her succeed. If your child has been struggling with reading for a while, and even if she hasn’t, you’ll need to give her plenty of encouragement.

    For younger children, try star charts or small grab-bag prizes. For older children, have them work toward a larger prize (e.g., a new outfit, sports equipment, a normally withheld privilege), depending on the number of hours that they spend working with you or with a tutor. Make sure that you focus on the specific reading issue that you discovered.

    Get books and magazines that you know that your child will enjoy, even if you feel that they lack any literary merit (e.g., sport magazines, comic books, graphic novels) and encourage your child to read them on her own or with friends. Remember: the more your child reads, the more she will become fluent in reading.

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    Recognize Your Child’s Strengths

    Even if your child struggles with reading, there’s a good chance that he excels in other areas of life. Is he athletic? Does he have excellent social skills? Does he excel in another academic area? Does he have hobbies or interests outside of the classroom? Understanding your child’s strengths and recognizing them is important for two reasons. First of all, you will then see your child as an overall success who is struggling in one area, and second of all, you will be able to use his strengths to motivate him to succeed in reading as well.

    Have you tried these strategies? Did they work for you? What other tips to you have?