From studying the recent biology chapter to taking notes on the next fifty pages in “Great Expectations,” so much of what teachers ask their students to do involves reading. Still, many students struggle to effectively comprehend and engage texts.
If your student is a struggling or reluctant reader, you may feel powerless to help her get through a difficult reading. Still, there are multitudes of ways in which you can help facilitate better reading practices at home, which could lead to more success in the classroom.
1. Create an environment.
The setting in which your student reads is crucial to her success. Typically, the rooms in our houses are cluttered with blinking electronics and polluted with noise. Encourage your child to find a quiet place in the house where she is comfortable but won’t become sleepy. Even an experienced reader is tempted to fall asleep when reading in bed.
Also, a productive reading environment limits distractions. If your child prefers to read in her room, have her turn over her cell phone and laptop until she is finished. This way she’s not tempted to check Twitter when she’s grappling with a difficult text.
2. Provide enough time.
Your child may not be able to fully engage if she feels pressure to finish a longer reading in a shorter period of time. Encourage her to break up her readings into smaller chunks. This will not only relieve some of the stress associated with reading, but it will also prevent skimming that results in only a cursory understanding of what’s read.
3. Allow room for breaks.
As someone who struggles with attention issues, I know how hard it is to maintain focus over an extended period of time. At about the half hour mark, I become fidgety and restless. I feel the need to clean or to attend to another project I plan on tackling. If your student finds it hard to concentrate, allow for break time. Even a five-minute snack break can provide the room needed to recharge and refocus.
4. Encourage a broad understanding.
A lot of the stress associated with reading comes from an internal pressure the student puts on herself to understand every sentence or word. The secret here is that she doesn’t. It’s OK to not know what a word means or what the narrator is saying in a particular paragraph. Most teachers don’t care if a student doesn’t know what color a character’s hat was (most likely it was red). Instead, we want to see that our students understood the text in a general sense and then we can focus on the specifics later. Encourage your child to read for the gist of the text and to note moments in which she was confused or needed clarification. These questions can be answered in the next day’s discussion.
5. Consider an audio book.
To more fully engage your student in her work, you may think about purchasing an audio book as a supplement to her reading. Doing so will create a multisensory experience and, according to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, could help create greater reading fluency. Resources such as Learning Ally and Bookshare have thousands of audio books for your student’s listening pleasure.
6. Teach active reading skills.
Active reading will aid retention because the reader is having a conversation with the text rather than passively absorbing information. Encourage your student to write marginal notes, reactions, and questions. When she’s finished reading, have her write a rapid reaction — what she thinks, what she anticipates, what was confusing.
Looking for more active reading tips? Check out: Active Reading Can Make You a Smarter Reader: Here’s Why.
7. Ask for help.
Of course you want to help your child better understand and enjoy reading. However, if you’re feeling lost or discouraged, reach out to the professionals who can help. Email your student’s ELA (English Language Arts) teacher or consider a reading tutor. These individuals are trained and willing to assess your student’s struggles and help her get to a place where she feels confident to tackle a text on her own.
Chernek, Valerie. "Can Audio And/or Digital Books Make a Difference in Learning Outcomes? Part II Assistive Technology At School." Can Audio And/or Digital Books Make a Difference in Learning Outcomes? Part II. National Center for Learning Disabilities, n.d. Web. 30 Aug. 2014.