My first child is a voracious reader. Miss Bug reads from morning to night. If I don’t know where she is, she is probably in her room reading. Her favorite place is the library. And her constant complaint is the lack of new books. She has pushed me to read new books. She has read many books that I haven’t. She was also an easy child to teach to read. We read to her, taught her the alphabet, and helped her sound out her first words. Then she was off and running.
My second child, T-Rex, has been a different story. And he has taught me how to help a slow reader.
Every child is different. Each has different strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes. So the items on this list might not be as helpful to you as they were to me. But hopefully they will be a starting point.
1. Read to your child
Read from real books that he/she enjoys. Let reading time be a time of pure enjoyment, not teaching. I know my son began to really dislike reading because he couldn’t do it well. Even though I was able to see small improvements in him, he felt like he was constantly failing. Reading to him with no goal other than enjoyment was key to keeping him from turning completely off to books.
2. Read a lot
Read from books. Read from magazines. Read websites, encyclopedias, scriptures, dictionaries and newspapers. Have you child read the instructions in their math books, history books and handwriting books. Read one page, and have them read one page. Pick a subject they are excited about and check out books on it from early readers to middle school readers. Have them read to their younger siblings, older siblings, grandparents, or the dog. And . . .
2a. Write a lot
Writing is an extension of reading. Have your child copy poems, quotations, scriptures and songs. Have them keep a journal, even one sentence a day. Have them write book reports, state reports, current events and stories. If they hate handwriting, have them type. Have them write whatever amount they are comfortable with, and maybe one sentence beyond.
3. Find what works for them
A lot of advice I hear given goes something like this: ‘Boys just need to find a book they are interested in, then their reading takes off.’ This is true for some, not so much for others. For my son, he loved the ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ books. We read them with him, each taking a page at a time. Truth be told, this didn’t cause him to immediately begin reading quickly and fluently. But it did respark his interest in books.
Another thing that worked well for us was finding readers that he enjoyed. I had on my shelf the Bob books, a set of Usborne readers, and the McGuffey primers. He read through parts of all of them, with varying levels of success, interest and enjoyment. Then I finally found the readers that my mother had taught me with.
The Sullivan Programmed Reading Series was interesting to my son, and taught him in ways that he was able to grasp quickly. He really enjoys these readers, and I’ll do a fuller review of them at a later date.
4. Sign up for a reading contest
Summer reading programs and contests can be found at many libraries and bookstores across the country. You might think that this would be counterproductive to your child, as it would compare him to others with better skills. But many contests have basic prizes or rewards for participation, or reading a set number of books. Exodusbooks.com holds a summer reading program each year, and every child who reads five or more books at his or her reading level receives a $5 gift certificate to the website (this is taken from a fee of $5 per child to enter the program). My son has been very excited to enter this contest the last three years, and while his sister puts up 100 books and thousands of pages each summer, he works his way through five to ten books or so, and proudly claims his prize at then, choosing whatever books he would like with his gift certificate.
You could also make a family reading program. A chart where each book read adds a scoop to an ice cream cone, toppings to a pizza, or helps a rockets take off can be very motivating, especially if the everyone gets an ice cream party after ten scoops!
5. Have your child tested
If your child is having difficulties that you can’t help them with, struggles that are taking years to resolve, or other problems in connection with reading, have them tested for learning difficulties. If your child has dyslexia or other learning disabilities, they will need specialized help. Knowing what they need can help guide you in you teaching. Finding out that your child doesn’t have any of those problems can also be helpful, as you will know what not to worry about. Our son, thankfully, does not have any learning disabilities. But it has taken 3 years of patient work to get him reading with some fluency. He is still progressing, but we finally feeling confident that he is getting where he needs to be.
All of these things can be part of a plan to help you. Something of interest to note is that some countries in Europe do not start formal schooling until children are 7, but still have excellent results. I hope this article is a good starting point for you.
Note: I was not paid or compensated to mention any product in this post.