Reluctant readers can be difficult to teach – so much of our educational curriculum is often centered around reading. There are many reasons why a student might not be willing to read, but whatever the reason, there is hope they can be motivated.
1. Many Reluctant Readers Lack Interest and Motivation
Let’s just call it like it is. Some reluctant readers hate reading. This impacts not only their reading ability, but also their emotional well-being. As reluctant readers age, a by-product of struggling to read is a low reading esteem, which impacts not only their reading ability, but also their emotional well-being. This directly impacts motivation; or lack of. Sometimes, this is an “easy” fix. Sometimes it is not. Here are a few suggestions when planning for readers who lack the motivation to pick up that text and read:
- A steady diet of reading on his/her reading level. These are texts the child can read AND comprehend without much assistance.
- Find a younger reading buddy. Older readers (who are reading on a lower level) may find those “baby” books more tolerable if they’re reading them to younger children.
- Readers (not just reluctant readers) like to read about subjects for which they are interested. Even if the texts are below or above their reading level, texts that interest them are a great option.
- Read non-fiction. This is always a great place to start because the reluctant reader can pick texts on topics that interest him.
- Readers need to be told what they are doing right. Are they able to answer “easy” questions about the text? Is he using the pictures to help him figure out unknown words? Praise your reluctant reader for the things he’s doing right.
- Re-work text when appropriate. Sometimes reluctant will be more willing to read a “baby” book if the pictures are removed from the text. To do this, type up the text onto a single sheet of paper and let them read.
- Read poetry. Shel Silverstein or Jack Prelutsky poetry are great places to start. The short text, humor, and lower reading level made these ideal.
- Read aloud to the child; even if the child is older. Find texts that may be too hard for the child to read that are of high interest to her and read it together. Sometimes, reluctant readers get stuck in the mindset that reading equals saying the words right and they forget that reading is all about enjoyment and understanding. Reading aloud helps to make this part come alive. (Listening to books on CD or an iPod/iPad would also work.)
2. Many Reluctant Readers are Actually Struggling Readers
There may be some areas where your reluctant reader is missing important information, such as: letters and their sounds, phonological awareness, phonics, word identification (with sight words), fluency, & comprehension. If a person is missing any of the skills necessary for reading, it will directly affect their ability to read. Here are a few online resources you can check out when planning for these puzzle pieces:
LETTERS AND THEIR SOUNDS
- Start with learning the letters in their name
- Work on learning the alphabet.
- Create collage pages of words and their letters
PHONOLOGICAL AND PHONEMIC AWARENESS
What is phonological awareness? Phonemic awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate the smallest units of sound in spoken language. Phonemic awareness is a subcategory of phonological awareness and refers to the ability to identify and manipulate the individual sounds (or phonemes) within words. Children with a good understanding of phonology and phonetics can identify and create words that rhyme, break down syllables, isolate beginning and ending sounds, blend sounds together to form words, and deconstruct words into individual sounds.
WORD IDENTIFICATION AND FLUENCY
Sight words are an essential part of reading. How much so? Fifty percent of the words you read are from the first one hundred words on Fry’s list. Amazing. This means that if kids cannot recognize these words quickly, they will have difficulty understanding what they read. Some ways to plan sight word learning for your reader are to use a combination of methods including: sight word books, wall words, and other materials that are developmentally appropriate for your reader.
- Fry’s first 100 words, listed in order of frequency. Start with the first 5 and move on from there.
- Sight Words You Can See– uses imagery, mnemonics, and humor to help learn those irregular words.
- Start a Word Wall– this is where you store all of the sight words your child has learned thus far.
- Consider your child’s word development. Are you expecting too much? Sometimes sight words don’t “stick” because your child is not developmentally ready.
- Technology- our three favorite apps for working on sight words are Word BINGO , Magnetic ABC & Teach Me 1st Grade.
- Sight word identification and fluency are kissing cousins. If your child struggles with fluency, try to find reading passages that lend themselves to reading with expression (characters talking, poetry, etc.)
Although it is important to be able to recognize words by sight, this is not the only strategy that readers need to learn. When readers come across an unknown word, they can use known words and word chunks to help them read by analogy. This is a skill that proficient readers still use. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might have noticed that I really like to teach phonics through Word Study. This is a way of learning about the patterns within words that develops over time. When planning out your phonics program, here are some tools for your box:
- What exactly is Word Study? Word study isn’t just a spelling thing; it’s a reading thing as well.
- How do you know which phonics skills are missing? Try the phonics assessment section of Cool Tools .This will show you the holes in their word understanding.
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- Manipulate words with magnetic letters, Making Words, or other hands-on ways
- BOB Books– I love the way that BOB Books teach phonics in a systematic fashion. A
- I have used Words Their Way over the years for word study, but if you’re a homeschooler, Spelling Mechanics Homeschool Word Study is a great program (and Ann is super helpful!).
- I have collected more helpful planning tips and activities on my Word Study Pinterest board
Reluctant readers who don’t have any issues with recognizing words automatically or reading by analogy don’t have any issues with reading. These readers can read texts that are much more difficult than what would be expected for their age. An inquiry about the text’s content will likely result in either a vacant expression or the response, “I don’t recall.” Here are some things to consider when planning for them:
- What are some comprehension strategies? Click here to read about them.
- Explicitly model and teach comprehension strategies by reading aloud together.
- Sometimes, students don’t understand the text structure of fiction or nonfiction; which affects their ability to weed out important from not-so-important pieces of the text. Text features within nonfiction may also need to be taught, as these features aid in comprehension.
- Again, reading aloud to your child helps your child see that reading isn’t just about “barking” the words; its about enjoyment
3. Some Reluctant Readers Have Deeper Issues that Affect their Reading
If both you and your child are avoiding reading at all costs, there may be something deeper going on. Some kids may have a shorter attention span which can potentially cause stress when sitting for long periods of time to read. Sometimes, there are processing issues like dyslexia. If you’ve “tried everything” and you (and your child) are still frustrated, then check out these resources:
- Start by documenting what you observe. Does she struggle with phonics? Is he frequently reversing letters, even in the 5th grade? Is she frequently unable to answer those questions that require her to read between the lines?
- Take your documented observations to someone knowledgeable about reading disorders (your child’s pediatrician may have a referral for someone in your area). A local school may also have some great referrals.
- If you think your child may have dyslexia, you can take an online test for dyslexia
- Don’t forget to check for eye issues. We found that the majority of our son’s reading issues were caused by a problem with his eyes’ ability to track the words.