Reading excites me! Yes, I love reading myself. However, what I love even more is seeing kids’ eyes light up when they first start to see themselves as readers. I love it when they feel confident in their own reading! If there is a light inside of me, you can be sure it is shining brightly when kids first confidently read. This process does not happen overnight for the struggling reader. There are barriers to overcome. There is negative self-talk to address. There is confidence to gain! Each of these steps is part of the process when helping individuals overcome reading difficulties.
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I’ve worked with many individuals over the years to help them overcome reading difficulties. One part of this role is helping the individuals to choose good fit books each step of the way. Not long ago, I assisted a young boy who was beyond frustrated with his library book. He had recently made great strides in his reading and seemed to believe this meant that he should be able to read any novel now.
Well, just like it wouldn’t go super well for me if I were to start reading an aerospace engineering journal tonight, this wasn’t working super well for him. The book he had chosen was a high level read for the majority of individuals his age.
Together, we chose a new book that was a better fit for his current reading level. This book was at his instructional level… a higher instructional level than what he was at just a few weeks earlier. It was Superman: The Man of Tomorrow by Daniel Wallace.
So much better!
He literally went from saying, “Uhhh, I can’t read this book. I’m not a good reader” with his original choice to exclaiming, “I love this book! I just want to keep reading. I can’t get my hands off it!”
He also claimed, “There are words in here that I didn’t think I knew and then I just read them!”
Yes, he was reading them correctly. He read words like legacy, ordinary, kryptonite, and enthusiastically without difficulty and he was very excited about it! In fact, he didn’t just read them, he read them with expression and completely understood what these words meant in context. To be honest, I was super excited as well, especially since each of these words, whether in context or not, were well beyond where he was at just a couple of months prior.
How to Help Individuals Overcome Reading Difficulties
So what needs to take place for the struggling reader in order for growth and confident reading to happen? Well, there are a few key things to consider:
When working with individuals to overcome reading difficulties, it is important to work on self-talk. The struggling reader knows that reading has come more easily to peers, siblings or others around them. They see it and wonder why they aren’t reading like others are. Looking around can feel self-defeating. Statements come out such as, “I’m bad at reading,” “I suck at reading,” or “I hate reading!” Sometimes other statements are said that are less personal such as, “Reading is boring!” or “Reading sucks.”
These statements often indicate that there is something in the way of reading being an easy process for the individual. It will be important to address this and help the individual engage in positive self-talk. Negative self-talk keeps the reader from becoming ready to learn.
Can they think of something they couldn’t do before that they can do now? What did they tell themselves? How awesome did it feel? This is the kind of talk we want when it comes to their reading as well… self-talk that acknowledges they CAN learn to read!
Patience Is Necessary
It is necessary for those working with individuals to overcome reading difficulties to exercise patience. When an individual has difficulty with reading, it’s imperative to find out what the root of the difficulty with reading is. In fact, the key to overcome reading difficulties is that the root must be targeted first and foremost. This allows for the most effective results in a reasonable time. This is specific to the individual, which is why what works for one will NOT work for another.
So many reading programs claim to have the “one” solution when it comes to reading difficulties. The reality is that the real solution to overcome reading difficulties depends on what is at the root of the struggle with reading.
I have an eBook that explains in-depth what to look for and how to help. Ruling Out a Reading Difficulty: A Parent’s Guide to Determining the Root of a Reading Difficulty and How to Help… Without the Overwhelm! was written specifically for parents to help close the gap on why an individual may be having difficulty with reading. It goes over various roots of a difficulty with reading, signs to look for regarding each, and offers guidance for how to help individuals work through them to get on a successful reading path.
Good Fit Books are a Must!
It’s important to have access to good fit books each step of the way. Just like when a first-grader starts to read we wouldn’t expect them to suddenly be reading high-level novels, we cannot expect an individual to suddenly break through his/her reading barrier and just as quickly move to read Shakespeare or something way above their current reading level. It just isn’t realistic and it won’t be a pleasant experience. Even if the individual can decipher the words, it isn’t meaningful because comprehension would be minimal at best. It will be frustrating and will lead to feeling defeated in the process. This is definitely NOT what we want to see.
I’m not saying here that higher-level books than what the individual is independently able to handle should never be picked up. What I am saying is that it can feel self-defeating. When higher-level material is used, it’s important to present it in a way that plays into what the individual is stronger in. (eg. audiobooks for the auditory learner)
Another part of a good fit book is that it must be interesting to the reader. Concepts must be stimulating. When books don’t spark interest yet become the expectation, it becomes frustrating for many readers. I’m sure each of us can remember a time that we had to read a book that we had zero interest in. Wasn’t it much more difficult to get through and retain any of the information?
Keep a Fair Pace that Matches the Reader’s Progress
It’s crucial to step into one’s reading progress at a fair pace. This means alternating between books at an independent level and an instructional level. The reader’s instructional level will continue to increase, so ensuring there is access to books that continue to match it is important.
Books at an independent level are easily read with no assistance needed. Reading these books builds confidence. Books at the instructional level require a bit of assistance, but not an excruciating amount. These books build skills. Alternating between these two levels is ideal. The other level of reading is frustrational. This level accomplishes little other than frustrating individuals and increasing negative self-talk if attempting to tackle them completely on their own. This is certainly NOT what we want at all!
How About You?
Do you have an individual in your life who has difficulty reading? What key steps have you found to be necessary for working with him/her to overcome reading difficulties? Let me know in the comments below!