If Your Child Struggles with Reading

Advice Lacks Details

This is the time of year when poor reading skills can result in low or failing report card grades. Well meaning teachers add comments on the bottom stating that your child needs to read more. This is not so simple with our kids who struggle with and even hate to read.

While practice does make perfect and well-known reading experts like Richard Allington promote, “Practice, practice, practice” as the best way to get good at reading, it cannot be made as a blanket statement for disgruntled readers. Most classroom libraries are loaded with books at or around the grade level of kids who are expected to be proficient at reading them. Kids want to read the same books they see their good-reading friends read. Librarians or teachers or online sources provide lists and more lists of wonderful titles of books for kids according to their age or grade level. This will not work for a child who struggles to read.

Your child might hate to read because:

  1. Available books have too many hard words on a page in small print.
  2. There are too many pages in the book making it appear to be an endless chore.
  3. Topics are not interesting or hard to figure out.
  4. Fear of failure & embarrassment.

As parents, we need to be a little crafty about how we get our struggling kids to read more and they need to be reading materials that are not daunting to them. First, you need to get your child’s reading level from the school. The books your child needs to read for school are at grade level but the books read for pleasure should be easy, short, and interesting.  If your child scores are very low, it will be tricky because low leveled books often appear “babyish” to kids.  Stack up piles of books at various levels in your child’s room.  You can also get popular books in audio form.  Don’t expect your child to read along because the audio goes too fast.  Just let them hear the story structure, problem solving, and vocabulary so they can talk about them with their friends.

Today, grade levels of books are measured in “Lexile Levels.”  This is simply a range of numbers for a grade level. for an average reader.  Refer to my chart on the right and try to match your child’s Lexile level with the Lexile level listed on a book.  Please notice that many titles are advertised to children of a certain age when their Lexile Levels are for much older children who are average readers. Never discourage a child from getting a book.  If it’s too hard, read to or with your child.

Lexile Level 650, P-3

Summer is around the corner.  Here’s an idea.  With your child, plan a trip to a local zoo or aquarium and mark it on the calendar. Go to the public library and find books on animals or fish.  Don’t worry about levels at this point.  Just let your child pick out books that look interesting. Ask the librarian to help you find books that are both fiction and nonfiction at varying levels. INCLUDE SOME PICTURE BOOKS.  When I started community college as a young mother, I remembered little of the history basics from high school. So, I went to the children’s section of the library and got younger, shorter versions which helped me fill in the blanks. That is when my love of picture books started. Remember, you want to entice your child to look at and maybe try to read some.

For ages 6-10 with varying degrees of reading levels.

Look at these books together before and after your trip, making reference to what you hope to see and, later, what you actually saw on your trip. Buy a subscription to Ranger Rick or Zoo Books magazines for kids.  This can work for Sports Illustrated Kids too.

Ages 8-10

There are kids’ books on every topic imaginable. What are your child’s interests? Encourage day trips and vacations that go along with books and even the movie version. Going to Disney? Read the biography of Walt Disney. Going to Hershey? Read how Milton Hershey created chocolate. Kids like wearing jeans? Read about Levy Strauss. Kids like cowboys and ranch life? Read about the Stetson hat. Like to cook? Get recipe books. Have a sense of humor? Get joke and riddle books. Like to dance, swim, invent things? Find biographies that inspire.

Lexile 400, 7-10

You need to motivate your child. Go slow and don’t push.  Keep getting a range of fiction and nonfiction books and magazines centered around your child’s interests.  Have them piled up around the house and in bedrooms. Don’t push – make them available. Talk about them.  Read your own books, newspapers, and magazines.  Share what you learned.  Always talk about what you are reading with your children.

Lexile 610, P-3
Lexile 1040, 8-10
Lexile 770-980, 6-9
Lexile 780, 8-10

Whatever you do, don’t push your struggling reader to read books that are too long or hard.  Keep leaving stacks of assorted levels and types of books around the house and your child’s bedroom.  Encourage discussions about what was learned.  NEVER berate a child for choosing a low-leveled smaller book.  Start small and slowly move up.  You want to build skills as well as confidence.  Enjoy reading those wonderful high-level picture books to your child.  My read-aloud guide (on the right) gives step-by-step instructions on what to say, questions to ask, how to uncover hidden meaning, tricky words, activities to do, and day trips to take while reading them. I think you’ll be surprised at how much is packed inside these small books.

The most important thing to take away from this blog post is that struggling readers indeed need plenty of practice – but they need to practice with short easy books to build up their skills and confidence.  Slowly build up. “Happy Reading!”