By Brian Inglesby, M.A., L.E.P.
Some kids with weak reading skills struggle to recognize and say the sounds in words. Others have trouble grasping the meaning of words. Skilled readers also need to be able to recognize and remember words automatically. So lots of practice is important.
If your child has a reading disability, she'll need direct, explicit instruction in a code-based reading approach (phonics). Her teacher or another trained professional should be doing the teaching, but there are many ways you can help her at home.
- Depending on your child's age and communication skills, talk to her about the difficulties you've noticed. Ask her how she feels about reading and what she needs help with. Assure her you're going to help her find new ways to improve her reading skills.
- Maintain a positive and hopeful outlook to support your child's belief in herself and her motivation to learn.
- Your child doesn't want to disappoint you. Be patient with her. In every way, support her efforts to succeed, but don't use false praise because most kids see right through it.
Support at home
- Kids need daily exposure to literature and reading materials. You and your child can take turns reading to each other.
- If you let your child choose books that interest her, she will probably want to read more.
- Check out "high interest," lower reading level books from your local public library. The children's librarian can help you choose the right books for your child.
- Show her how reading is all around us - street signs, stores, and billboards. Associate a word or sign with meaning. When riding in the car, point out all the words and letters that you pass every day. Make it a game to name the letters in a street sign or car license plate. Doing this may also improve her attention and concentration skills.
- For young children, other fun ideas are included in 25 Fun Ways to Encourage Reading.
- What she reads out loud to you should be at a level below her classroom instruction. This reinforces skills and makes them automatic. If she struggles through the page and makes more than 5 errors, it's probably too hard. Ask her teacher to supply the books she's learned to read at school.
- Skim the story or book ahead of time and ask her what's going to happen next - "What do you think this story is about?" or "How do you think this story will turn out?"
- As you read, ask her to name the "Who, What, Where, When, and Why?" to check for memory and comprehension.
- Use highlighting tape or post-it notes in a book to identify key points to remember and review. (You can use highlighter pens on books you own, but don't use them in school or library books.)
- Books on tape are a way for your child to "read" material above her skill level. Encourage her to read the book along with the tape. Ask questions to check for understanding.