Helping struggling readers feel at home in the world of books

When a child struggles to read, it’s important to find an instructional program to help him succeed. Once that’s accomplished, some mothers try to balance their children’s academic experience with “at home” reading activities that are fun and rewarding. Such activities can help a struggling reader enjoy and appreciate the world of books — and feel good about himself. Four such mothers tell their inspirational stories here.

Learning to love books

“We’ve made reading a family value. Our kids associate reading with love and comfort,” Debbie Berrow explains. Her 9-year-old son, Rudy, is dyslexic. Debbie says her approach is to “find the best teachers for Rudy and let them do the teaching. At home, we read with our kids for enjoyment. We try to stimulate their great imaginations.” Although Rudy struggles to read, he loves books and wants to be a librarian when he grows up!

Sparking motivation

Linda Morrissey’s 12-year-old son, Kyle, has a reading disability. He’s also loved books all his life. At home, Kyle prefers to read for short intervals and “report” what he’s read to his mom. He’s hooked on Civil War stories, so Linda helps him find books on the subject. She even takes him to ride in the battlefields and collect war relics. Linda says these special activities “make history come alive for Kyle.”

Rita Olson* says her son has been fascinated with books since his preschool years. But in fourth grade, he was identified with a reading disability. Now 15, her son finds reading is still a challenge. His mom doesn’t force him to read anything beyond what’s assigned at school. Instead, she helps him find books he’s genuinely interested in. Rita recalls, “When he read the Guinness Book of World Records, he couldn’t put it down. I think it was easier for him because it contains facts, rather than a story.” Her son recently asked Rita to buy a book his soccer coach often quoted — a book about ancient Chinese philosophy. She says, “Although it’s difficult, he’s so interested that he’s making himself read it.”

Inventing a reading game

Cheryl Barrar says her 9-year-old son, Quinn, “has severe dyslexia. Reading and comprehension are a struggle.” After taking a parent workshop to learn about Quinn’s special reading program, Cheryl invented a reading game for Quinn. Here’s how the game is played:

  1. She finds a newspaper article that produces high visual imagery and includes a photograph — “Stories like the Japanese farmers who grow square watermelons,” she explains.
  2. She condenses the story into four or five sentences. “Together, Quinn and I read, verbalize, and visualize the sentences. I have several small pieces of felt that represent anchors for each sentence. When I ask Quinn for a story summary, I touch each felt square and ask what he pictures there.”
  3. Finally, we look at the photograph from the article. “Quinn then gets to see how the ‘movie’ he imagines matches reality.”

Cheryl says the greatest reward is that “Quinn enjoys our time together. He’s become more animated when he talks. And he asks some pretty amazing questions!”

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