how to homeschool a struggling reader
I’ve covered this topic before, but it’s one I’m passionate about, so here I am again. Even if you have a child who is 9 years old and can’t read simple words, or a teen who “doesn’t like books,” don’t give up. You can have a reader, one who willingly reads on his own. Perhaps he’ll never absorb book after book like a sibling, but that doesn’t matter. The goal is not to win a “Most Books Read” award. The goal is to raise a child who reaches for a book when he wants to expand his knowledge, learn something new, or be challenged in an entertaining manner.
Here are a few tips to help a reader who is slow at reading or thinks she doesn’t like books:
- Make reading a priority: Set aside time for reading each day, and encourage your child to read independently as well as with you. Our children loved to do read alouds over tea time, around 4pm. Other families love to read together at bedtime.
- Choose good books: Select books interest your child, but don’t worry over reading level. Charlotte Mason had 1st graders reading Plutarch. Don’t “dumb down” the books. Avoid choosing “twaddle,” or, books that are void of substance, and too easy (I think Dick & Jane may fall into the twaddle category, but our little 5 year-old loved them so very much that she owned the books as compilation sets – let the child lead).
- Use phonics: Teach your child phonics and phonemic awareness skills, such as recognizing individual sounds in words and blending sounds together. This can help your child decode unfamiliar words and build reading fluency. If your struggling reader needs some phonics work, pull out a Kindergarten phonics book (or visit this freebie) and have her teach to a younger sibling. If there’s not a younger sibling, have her go through the book with you. It helps any new reader, no matter the age, to review phonics.
- Practice reading aloud: Encourage your child to read aloud to you or to a sibling or friend. This can help build fluency and confidence. We had our older children ‘teach’ the younger ones by reading to them. This kept the little one busy while I was busy with another child, and it helped the reader practice.
- Encourage reading for pleasure: Encourage your child to choose books that they enjoy, and make reading a fun and enjoyable activity. If he won’t be tempted by books, tempt him. I read into the second chapter of Watership Down, got to a pivotal point in the plot, and set the book down. Our 11-year-old son could not stand it; he picked up the book.
- Be patient and positive: Obviously, right? Reading can be challenging, especially for struggling readers. It’s important to be patient and encourage your child with positive reinforcement. We already know this, but it helps to remember. Choose a sweet or fun book, and you’ll find this time is a good memory later. I can say that from experience.
Here’s an email I wrote to a friend about a breakthrough I had with our struggling reader
“My eyes were opened wide last week as I’m struggling with our 8-year-old reading. He reads, but not fluently. It’s okay, that’s not his thing, and all children learn at different speeds, but phonic programs aren’t working for him, and I have been frustrated because he has a desire to read everything yet he is only reading basic words.
This changed recently after I read that Susanna Wesley taught her children to read using just the first 10 verses of the Bible. Aha! I thought! I’ve been looking at it all wrong, I need to go to the Grammar/Reading/Writing Master Himself!
Our 8-year-old recites Psalm 23 perfectly. Why not use that as a reading selection? I pulled out the Bible. Our boy read the first two verses, but as he has them memorized, I wasn’t sure he was truly reading. I wrote all of the words on paper, cut them, scrambled them, and he easily put them into the right order. Even 12th century English words like “maketh,” and words we don’t use often these days, such as “shepherd” and “pastures.” Hard words! He thought it was great fun and wanted to do more.
This time he wrote the words down. I dictated the words to him to see if he could spell them. Reading, writing, grammar, and spelling all in one short lesson.”
how we taught our kids to love reading
A while back, I wrote a bit more about how we succeeded with our struggling reader. He’s grown now, and has a house and a successful career at only 22. The other day when I went to visit him, he discussed what he’s currently reading: Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (written AD 161-180).
And here’s more on how we taught our children to love reading.