Have struggling reader issues causing your kid to be behind? Or, maybe your child hates reading? Here’s how to help a child with reading difficulties, how to read challenges, and how to motivate your child to choose books they love. Here’s how to help a child who doesn’t like to read and understand the biggest mistake you’re making when teaching at home for grade level learning and prevent future problems!
DEALING WITH STRUGGLING READER ISSUES
Each time someone talks to me about teaching reading (or reading strategies or reading comprehension), I cringe inside a little.
It starts innocently with requests on how to teach a 6 year old child to read or how to make my teen read more or which books are best for learning.
Or, the questions turn to concerns about Why is my child struggling to read?
Why does my child struggle with reading?
Dr. Reid Lyon, former Chief of the Child Development and Behavior Branch within the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), reveals that approximately 20 to 30 percent of American children experience reading difficulties.
Children are struggling with reading for a variety of reasons:
- Problems decoding, or recognizing written words
- Trouble sounding out words
- Visual processing issues
- Auditory processing issues that can change the way a child thinks about words
- Memory challenges
- Being forced to read at a specific level because of age/grade
- Environmental factors, like exposure to reading and access to books starting at a young age
- Learning disabilities or disorders
- Dealing with attention disorders
- Parents failing to recognize a child’s learning style
How can I help my child who is struggling to read?
What to do when a child refuses to read or is having trouble with reading:
- Regularly work with your child on reading in order to recognize any issues.
- Read aloud with your child.
- Let your child choose what they want, even if it seems beneath their level. (Lower level reading is better than none!)
- Don’t force it. If your child is getting frustrated, take a break and do something fun!
- Use a guide, like a ruler, to help keep them on track (if that’s one of their struggles).
- Don’t make book time seem like “schooling.” Change up the environment: try the park, on the porch/balcony, in a fun reading nook, or other unique places.
- Don’t show your exasperation or impatience with their issues. Show them positive support!
- Remember that all children have their own learning process. What worked for one of your children may not work for another.
Yale.edu also has some great tips on developing a foundation for reading and tips for when your child can’t read well.
THIS WILL ALSO HELP YOUR STRUGGLING READER: What are living books?
How To Help a Child Struggling With Reading
I also see a lot of parent discussions about a child who refuses to read or the reading levels chart and feeling like their child is behind in their level.
What if I told you that you need to stop worrying about reading levels and reading programs so much?
Hear me out.
I want to tell you a personal experience about how my daughter went from a struggling reader to an avid one, who now regularly and naturally advances herself to higher levels. This will help, even if you’re concerned about how to teach an older child to read!
Then, I’ll give you some tips on how to read that you can use starting TODAY, so KEEP SCROLLING after the story!
So, forget the reading strategies for a moment.
Here’s how it all started…
How To Help A Child Read: A Personal Homeschool Experience
Not long ago a friend of mine posted:
“Looking for suggestions on chapter books for my son. The teacher told him that the graphic novels that he loves to read aren’t appropriate for his level.”
And, my heart sank a little. (This is one of the reasons why students hate reading!)
Tips for parents to help with reading at home:
Reading for kids shouldn’t be a job or chore. It should be something that kids naturally look forward to learning and doing—something they can use to learn more about their interests, not something that meets a standard, even if you’re having struggling reader issues.
What really happened that day was not a teacher moving a child along in their reading skills (because the teachers have to follow certain rules and meet certain standards).
What really happened that day was society told a child that what he loved to read wasn’t good enough.
And, this can be devastating for a kid, especially when they’re learning how to read or are generally uninterested in reading (and especially if kids hate reading).
I think this tugs so hard at my heart because I had a non-reader.
Early on, my daughter had no interest in it, despite books being a natural part of our homeschooling.
Even after learning how to read, she just wasn’t interested in sitting down with books on her own.
This all changed when we moved to a different area and got a library card for the new library. It is a smaller, less intimidating library and has a fantastic children’s area.
As I watched her look through the sections, she pulled from the picture books (which would be considered well below her level).
Then, she pulled some from the (“level-appropriate”) chapter books.
And then, I watched her discover graphic novels.
And on that day, it was like I could see the switch flip to ON in her head.
She was hooked!
She would devour books (of all levels and types) and then ask to go back to the library in the same week.
And, it happened over and over and over again.
She found an online book app and asked if we could sign up. (We did.)
And, she get books of all types and levels on her iPad.
Right before my eyes, I watched my daughter become a reader. All because I never made rules about how to do it and I ditched all those fundamentals that everyone says you must do.
And, guess what else is happening?
In my decision to let go of the reading level chart and not direct her, my daughter has naturally advanced herself along, even picking some adult level books that interest her (and were topic appropriate).
Now, without fail, every time we go to the library, she also still finds picture books to check out… and some don’t even have words (or only have a few words).
And, I allow it because I never want to tell my daughter not to be interested in a book because it’s “beneath her learning level.”
Want to help how to help struggling readers?
Stop telling children to read at their “grade level” and worrying about reading comprehension strategies and start allowing kids to do what they love so they can develop a lifelong love of books. As kids’ interests change and grow, they will naturally advance levels to meet the needs of their interests.
Want to know how to make kids read? Give them choice. If your child cries when reading, you’re not helping them learn!
It seems like we’re always with teaching our kids how to learn faster or focusing on strategies that it’s all just become so… clinical.
We’ve forgotten to model for our children how to just enjoy the story of a book.
(It’s called a story book for a reason. We’re supposed to enjoy the story and not attach a bunch of measurements to it!)
I fear that living in a society of do this, not that is crushing our kids’ natural love of learning.
When we take away something they love to use for learning and replace it with something we think they should use for learning, we are telling them that they aren’t good enough.
We are telling kids that what they’re interested in reading isn’t good enough.
(UGH. That hurts my heart.)
And, we’re effectively crushing their natural interest in learning… and this especially happens in our society when teaching kids how to read.
I’m not talking about first learning (although that counts, too).
I’m talking about teaching our kids how — as in what they choose to read.
Why can’t a fourth grader pick up graphic novels as part of her learning?
Or, why can’t she check out picture books because she enjoys stories with fabulous illustrations?
Why can’t we teach with picture books during her homeschooling, even if they are “below her learning level”?
The truth is: we can use whatever books interest her.
All kids can and should be able to choose what they want to read without fear that they aren’t at their “grade” level or “learning level.”
So, what to do when my child hates reading?
Or, how to get your child interested in reading?
Don’t even worry about how to get your child to love reading yet. You just want to first get them interested in books they like and then we’ll work on the rest later!
Reading Problems and Solutions
FUN Reading Motivation Strategies for Kids
How can I help my child read at home and how to get a child to read when they refuse:
1. Allow your children the freedom to choose what they want to read… even if it is below (or above) their level.
2. Get your child a library card. Visit the library regularly!
4. Sign up for a fun library or community program where your kid gets to practice his or her skills by reading to a dog. (Yep! It’s really a thing!)
5. Don’t be afraid to suggest or introduce books that you think your child may like, but don’t push them.
6. Make a book into a theme lesson where you cook, do crafts, or explore the places from the book. (Check out our sister site where we pair books with recipes to make real food fun!)
7. Create a reading nook for kids. They can be quiet corners, window seats, or even hideaways under the stairs or in a treehouse. It just needs to be somewhere comfy that your kid wants to hang.
8. Have books available throughout your house.
9. Let your child see you reading.
10. Have a morning tea or hot chocolate time, where you take turns discussing a book.
11. Give your child a budget and let them buy cheap kids books that interest them from thrift stores or used bookstores.
12. Read at bedtime. Not only will it help your kid, it’s also a great way to spend time together and wind down.
13. Look up words that they have problems pronouncing or if they don’t know the definition. Or, let them use Alexa or Siri to help pronounce words.
14. Create a READING TREE with a tree wall decal and add a “leaf” with the book name, author, and date each time your child finishes a book. It will give your child a sense of accomplishment to see everything they’ve completed by the end of the year (or summer or whatever). Make milestone goals where your kid gets something fun for adding X amount of leaves to the trees!
15. Ask your child to tell you about the book. It will help them with their understanding of timelines and their communication skills.
16. Have your child create some art based on the book.
17. If your kid loves coding, let him/her code something that represents the book. (Try Scratch, a free and easy coding program!)
18,. Let your child pick out books he/she loved to donate to a shelter or for kids in need in order to share the ones they love.
19. Set reading goals and map them on a graph or add stickers to a chart when goals are met.
20. Create a reward program (or reward store) for goals and rewards. Let them keep track in a reading log and each time they hit a milestone (determined by you), they get to pick a prize or go to a special place.
21. Get them a tablet or e-reader for books online (especially if they’re more into technology than books!).
22. Create times for reading out loud, no matter your children’s ages and stages. Hearing the words helps with pronunciation and comprehension. (Plus, it’s just FUN to create a family time around books!)
23. Have fun making a list together of favorite books. Or, give your child a theme (like bubble gum, Christmas, nature, robots, etc.) and allow them to create their own list at the library from the theme!
But… how do you get better at reading if your kids really hate reading?
4 Alternatives to Reading (That Secretly Encourage Your Child To Read)
So, how do you inspire reading?
It can be difficult if you have a child who is struggling, has a learning disability, or just isn’t interested.
ENTER: Alternatives to physical books…
These are ways that will encourage your child to read or pique their interest… without them even knowing it!
1. Use TV Shows and Movies
It may seem counterintuitive, but you can use television and movies to inspire reading—especially since many great books are made into movies or shows.
2. Introduce Audiobooks
One of the reasons that some kids don’t want to read is because they struggle with it (for whatever reason).
This is where using audiobooks is extremely beneficial!
Audiobooks vs Reading
I know, it may seem like allowing your kids to listen to books instead of reading them is the exact opposite of what you should be doing.
However, did you know that there are many benefits to audiobooks and that they can actually encourage reading?
- Help increase vocabulary
- Help with pronunciation
- Improve comprehension
- & SO MUCH MORE!
CHECK THIS OUT NEXT: Surprising Benefits Of Audiobooks For Kids
If you need a place to start, you can try audiobooks with Amazon Prime free online for 30 days.
You get two free audiobooks and also two free Audible originals.
If it doesn’t work for you, you can cancel before the 30 days, but you still get to keep the audiobooks and originals and it doesn’t cost you anything!
It’s a great way to try out audiobooks for kids and see if they work for your family!
3. Play Reading Games
Allowing your kids to play games is another fantastic way to encourage it without being too IN YOUR FACE about it.
(Yes, they even have fun reading comprehension games online if that makes you feel better!)
Try these educational games:
• Teach Your Monster To Read (free, but requires login)
4. Use Reading Apps for Kids
Here are apps for kids that will allow them to have access to hundreds of books right at their fingertips:
- Kindle. (Did you know that you don’t even need a Kindle device to read Kindle ebooks? You can access Kindle books from many different devices! LEARN MORE)
- Sight Words
- Endless Reader
- Wanderful Interactive Storybooks
- VOOKS Books
We love VOOKS, which is a reading app that animates books and reads the books to your kids, highlighting the words so that your kids can follow along.
Don’t Forget About Picture Books for Children
Again, I can’t stress this enough:
Please don’t discount the learning power of picture books (or anything else your child wants to read).
Picture books that inspire creative imagining is learning!
So, don’t discount reading kids’ books, even if they don’t seem “age appropriate.”
Whether it’s wordless picture books, classic children’s books, or silly, popular children’s books, your child can learn from them . . . no matter his or her age!
(And, PS? You don’t have to like them. I ::eyeroll:: internally at a TON of stuff my daughter finds amusing!)
Using a picture book about a topic that inspires interest in chapter books for kids is learning.
Using graphic novels that may also pique an interest in drawing is learning.
Naturally progressing yourself to different levels and topics is learning.
Give them room to learn.
The rest will follow.
And, please, for the love of all that is good, please stop telling children that they can’t read a book because “it’s not at their level.”