As parents, we always want our children to be able to do things that other kids in their age grade or class can do but we sometimes forget that every child is different- some children are fast learners while some are slow but effective learners.
If your child is not yet reading well at a certain age, it doesn’t necessarily spell trouble but if you suspect that your child is a struggling reader, there are things that you can do to reverse the situation and help them become better at reading and comprehension.
The first thing you should do is to ascertain that your child is not suffering from a condition known as Dyslexia.
Dyslexia is a learning disability that makes it difficult for children to read accurately and fluently. Children with dyslexia often have difficulties with writing, reading, comprehension, and writing.
You will need to have a professional diagnose the condition but there are a few symptoms that may indicate that your child is not just a struggling reader but suffering from Dyslexia.
Some of the symptoms include:
- Trouble decoding words.
- Inability to match letters to sounds
- Inability to read words accurately or fluently.
- Anxiety or frustration when reading.
- Avoidance of reading.
- Struggling to learn new words.
- Inability to recognize word rhymes.
- Spelling troubles or error.
- Re-reading a paragraph, passage or sentence several times.
- Doesn’t read at the expected grade level.
There are several ways to correct the condition but you’ll have to act very early and seek the help of trained and qualified professionals like child psychologists, child neurologists, speech-language pathologists, special education teachers, and reading specialists.
If your child is not dyslexic, then they might just be a struggling reader and you can help then using the tips below:
#1. Reduce Anxiety: Don’t yell at them or get mad at them because they can’t read well. This is only going to make them anxious and the more anxious they get, the harder it will be for them to learn how to be better readers.
You must help them relax and bring down their anxiety levels by letting them know that it’s okay to not be great at everything and you’re there to help them get better. You can also praise some of their other skills and mention the things that they are great at.
The key is to help your child know that they are not stupid and what they are experiencing is only temporary. Building their confidence and bringing down their anxiety levels will help them relax and be more open to whatever you want to teach them.
#2. Use Reading Cards: If your child keeps reading one line or one sentence several times, you can use reading cards which will be placed on each line that they read so that it prompts them to move on to the next line.
After using the reading card for a while, your child will no longer need a prompt to move on to the next line as their eyes and brain would have been trained to do so automatically.
#3. Don’t Rush to Help Them Every Time They Get Stuck: Sometimes your child will get stuck with words or sentences but you shouldn’t always rush to their rescue. You should always give them some time to figure it out. If you must help, you can give clues but don’t always spoon-feed them- allow them challenge their brains. Remember that the brain is a muscle and the more it is challenged, the better it gets.
#4. Let Them Read a Page Over and Over Again: Struggling leaders often get confused when they have to learn too many words at a time. You can help them avoid this by having them read a single page over and over again until they have grasped all the words and sentences, before turning over to the next page.
This will make your child become more familiar with words as they come across them over and over again.
#5. Play with Sounds: Phonological awareness is often a challenge for struggling readers. Phonological awareness is the ability to pick up the different sounds in a word, and knowing when the words rhyme, and how to blend the different sounds to form a single word.
Sound games and activities can help to improve your child’s phonological awareness. You can buy some toys that are specially designed for this purpose like the Junior Learning 6 Phonemic Awareness, Super Duper Publications Phonological Awareness Fun Park, and the Phonological Awareness Chipper Chat.
#6. Get them to fall in Love with Books: Sometimes, a struggling reader is just a reluctant reader. Some children naturally love books while some children would need to be encouraged and chided severally to pick up a story book.
If your child has no reading or learning difficulties and is just a reluctant reader, you can help them fall in love with reading by reading to them often and creating fun activities around reading like acting the story out, painting, dancing or any other activity that they love.
Integrating reading with other activities that your child loves, and maybe adding some extra motivation like some ice cream or cookies when they pick up a book to read, can undo their reading reluctance and make them start seeing the fun in reading.
#7. Have Them Read Colored Books: Some children find it difficult to read words imprinted on black and white pages due to a perceptual processing disorder called Scotopic Disorder.
Try to observe your child when they read colored books and compare it with the ease at which they read black and white books- if they can read colored books better, you may have to stop buying them black and white books because Scotopic Disorder is not a visual impairment that can be corrected with optical solutions, it is a brain disorder.
#8. Buy Audio Books: Audiobooks are also very helpful for struggling readers, especially those suffering from comprehension problems.
Reading involves two activities- decoding the words, and then comprehending the sentences.
Audio books do half of the job (decoding of words and sounds) so your child just has to focus on the comprehension aspect.
This makes reading easier and more interesting for your child especially when they are a reluctant reader.