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According to the IRIS Center, a national center dedicated to improving education outcomes for all children, approximately 40% of students across the nation cannot read at a basic level. If you have a reluctant or struggling reader at home, here are a few tips on how you can support them. More resources and articles on the topic are linked below.

How to Build a Better Reader

  1. Let them read what they want, even if the reading level is “too young” for them or if they’ve already read it several times. The repetition is good in helping them learn vocabulary, sentence structure, etc. and the comfort of a familiar read makes the experience enjoyable, not torturous. This is especially true if your child loves graphic novels and manga; these absolutely count as “real reading.” Not convinced? Check out this article from Scholastic, 3 Ways Graphic Novels Benefit Reading Skills.
  1. Practice phonics and decoding. What does that mean? According to Reading Rocket, “Phonics instruction teaches the relationships between the letters of written language and the sounds of spoken language. Children’s reading development is dependent on their understanding of the alphabetic principle — the idea that letters and letter patterns represent the sounds of spoken language. ‘Decoding’ is the act of sounding out words using phonics.” Click to the Reading Rocket link above for free resources you can use at home.
  1. Listen to audiobooks while reading along with the text–we have a selection of Wonderbooks that have the audio component built into the physical book, but you can also help this along by turning on closed captions for TV shows and movies. This tip is connected to the one above about phonics and decoding: Many kids may understand a word when they hear it, but not be able to identify it when reading. Connecting the two–hearing how the word is pronounced while seeing how it’s written–can help build vocabulary and literacy. 
  1. Practice reading out loud to a pet to build confidence. Animals don’t judge! Make sure to visit the Youth Services department because Shelly the FPPL library turtle loves when kids read to her! 
  1. Model the behavior. If you want your kid to become a better reader, kids should see you enjoying reading in various forms. Making it a point for them to see you reading newspapers, magazines, physical books as well as enjoying audiobooks and ebooks, etc. normalizes the behavior and shows that you’re not employing a “Do as I say, not as I do” strategy. Insisting that your child read even though you don’t can make it seem like a punishment or an unnecessary skill for adult life, which is absolutely not true. It’s important for kids to see that you too make mistakes, and that you also have to look up new words and information just like they do. When kids are having reading difficulties, it’s common for them to feel like they’re the only ones who have this problem or the only one who makes mistakes, so showing them that it’s OK to make mistakes and how to correct them will build their confidence and make them feel more comfortable coming to you with their questions and issues.

Adult Services just launched the Winter Reading Challenge for February, where all you have to do is read for 20 minutes a day and log it to be entered to win delicious prizes! It’s the perfect opportunity for you to model good reading behavior for your kids, carve out reading time for yourself, and possibly win a pizza party!

We also have a Build a Better Reader Kit available in the Youth Services Department that you can check out. Included in the kit: 

  • White boards and dry erase markers for writing practice
  • A combination magnifier/highlighter strip for magnifying and highlighting text
  • Highlighter strips in multiple colors
  • A Scanmarker Air digital highlight that will scan, read, and translate text and scan text to a computer
  • A “Whisper Phone” to provide quiet auditory feedback for read-aloud practice (this tool is used for support in a number of scenarios including as support for Autism, Auditory Processing Disorder, Dyslexia, and stuttering)

More resources:

3 Important Skills Needed for Reading (This Reading Mama)

Helping Struggling Readers (This Reading Mama)

7 Ways to Build a Better Reader for Grades 1-2 (Scholastic)

7 Ways to Build a Better Reader for Grades 3-5 (Scholastic)

5 reasons your child should read graphic novels (Today)

5 Ways to Support Students Who Struggle With Reading Comprehension (Edutopia)

Articles about struggling readers:

About Reading Disabilities, Learning Disabilities, and Reading Difficulties (Reading Rocket)

Why Millions Of Kids Can’t Read And What Better Teaching Can Do About It (NPR)

What the Words Say (APM Reports – article and audio)

Is the Bottom Falling Out for Readers Who Struggle the Most? (Education Week)

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