Struggling reader, reluctant reader, whatever you call it — Noah (who has Asperger’s Syndrome) definitely had an extremely difficult time reading when he was younger. When he left school after second grade, they told me that he was just barely at grade level. Of course, what this meant is that he was just barely at a second grade level when he was at the end of second grade.
Even once he came home for school, he was still a struggling reader. During one of his case conference meetings (as we have decided to keep his IEP up-to-date with the school system), we requested that he be tested for a reading disability.
The school ended up saying that he did not have a reading disability, but the reasoning was odd and difficult to go into here. (We were secretly told by someone on the committee to have him tested again later, as she felt the results were not accurate.)
But, here we are today, and he may not be the most amazing reader in sixth grade, he loves to read and reads well, particularly given his difficulty with reading in the past.
Here are ten things that we did to help encourage our son to go from struggling reader to voracious reader:
1. Encouragement to Read Whatever He Wanted. Sure, we have from time to time now said he shouldn’t read something. But, back in the day, if he wanted to read Pokemon books for school, we would let him.
2. Have a Variety of Types of Reading Materials Available. We didn’t stick to only books, but also magazines, comics, and Internet reading.
3. Have High Interest Reading Materials Available. Based on his preferences, we made sure to have a lot of things around the house that he would love to read. This is one reason, for instance, that we have a ton of ZooBooks Magazines around now.
4. Nightly Read Alouds. One way to encourage children in their reading is to do a lot of read alouds. We haven’t always been good about doing it every night, but we definitely used to every night while he was still struggling so badly. We picked wonderful, classic books as well as silly books that were a little more on the side of twaddle. We just wanted to present reading to be the fun activity that it is.
5. Read School Materials Aloud. In subjects where it didn’t matter if he was able to read on his own, I would usually read things aloud to him. As he got better with reading, I would sometimes ask him to tackle one paragraph. And, as he got even better, I might ask him to read a whole page.
6. Have Your Struggling Reader Be the Teacher. In order to help him feel more successful, I would sometimes ask him to read simple books with Molly. In this way, he was able to feel success as a reader, even if it was at a much lower grade level. (This isn’t limited to homeschooling families, of course.)
7. Lots of Trips to the Library. I will selfishly admit that one of the reasons that my kids pretty consistently manage to go to the library is because Eric takes them once a week and then tends to take them out for an ice cream afterward, while giving me some quiet time at home. However, I definitely think that lots of trips to the library helps!
8. Audio Books. I don’t know that this is really all that different from listening to Mom or Dad read aloud. However, it is a nice option to have.
Also, in our case, it just so happened that one audio book that we listened to happened to be The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis. That one audio book made our reluctant reader so interested that he then proceeded to read the entire Narnia series of books. I really see that as a turning point in his life as a reader. It was after that that we rarely saw him without a book near him.
9. Suggest Books that You Think Will Be of Interest to Your Reluctant Reader. One series of books that our reluctant reader ended up loving was simply because I saw it in a book store, read the backs of several of them, and decided that he would probably like it. He was not sure at first, but after reading part of the first one, he loved it. This was one of the first things that finally made him willing to read.
10. Relax. Unless you’re sure that there is definitely a medical reason that the reading is difficult, it might be that your child just needs more time to mature and develop. Some kids just grow and develop at different times than the accepted norm. Your late blooming reader may just have a book worm inside of them waiting to get out.
A Note: There sometimes really are medical reasons or learning disabilities that make reading difficult or impossible for some children. In these cases, simple encouragement is just not enough, and other steps may need to be taken.)
If you’ve had a struggling reader or reluctant reader, what have you done to help them grow as readers?