(Photo by Miguel Constantin Montes from Pexels)
March. The third month of the year, my birthday month, and the month to commemorate my most treasured activity – reading! 1 March saw us observing World Book Day.
World Book Day is one of my favourite days. Not only is it a day to celebrate what I love but it is also a day I reminisce a wonderful childhood spent curled up with a book in hand. While there are adults who discover reading in later years, after stumbling upon a genre they enjoy, the majority of bookworms have been reading since they were very young. A love for reading most often begins early. Just like a lot of other matters in childhood, reading must be encouraged gently and lovingly. I know this is easier said than done, especially with struggling readers.
As a learning support professional, I am more than familiar with the challenges and lack of interest that children and teenagers with learning difficulties face with reading. However, I still believe in making literature accessible to all. Stories help navigate the world, make sense of our circumstances and broaden our perspective. A sound vocabulary lends to increased emotional awareness and regulation. A person who is able to express his/her feelings accurately is far better equipped to traverse the world compared to one who has a limited set of words to draw from. Reading enables us to imagine, question and simply be present. If only we recognised the power of engaging these cognitive processes.
Here are a few strategies for struggling readers, including commonly known ones, to imbibe a love for stories. These are in no particular order.
- Take turns reading aloud, even with children in secondary school!
- Choose books with reader-friendly fonts and font sizes.
- Read along or listen to audio books.
- Talk to the school/community librarian and ask for book recommendations.
- Book shares among friends and family members can be a fun way to instill reading habits.
- Set a time to read daily.
- Read on a device.
- Create a reading/story corner where one can retreat for a quick ‘escape’ from reality. Place cushions, a favourite soft toy, candles, more books or anything that might help associate reading with positive emotions.
- Use a reading ruler.
- Adults can be good role models by making sure they are seen reading frequently.
- Choose a genre or topic of interest to read about.
- Magazines, comics, plays, poems and even speeches are good reading materials for struggling readers.
- Choose smaller books which are quicker to finish if slow reading is a concern.
- Look up the meanings of words by having a dictionary handy nearby.
- Use assistive technology like a Reader Pen or apps that convert text to speech.
- Keep phones and other electronic devices away from you while reading to avoid distractions.
- Set realistic goals and do not compare to others’ reading levels. Everyone grows at their own perfect pace.
- Talk to friends and family about the book.
- Develop other strengths. For struggling readers, it helps to have other skills they are good at to help build self-esteem.
- Finally, the purpose of reading is comprehension. Do not to forget to check for understanding with what, who, where, when and why questions at the very least.
If a student exhibits signs of, or has a diagnosed learning disability, he/she will require further screenings and/or intervention in addition to what is mentioned here.