I do not remember a time when I could not read. I learned to read before I started kindergarten. I don’t recall paying attention to phonics rules or sounding out words; I just read.
Over the last twenty years or so, I have worked with many students for whom that was not the case. Reading was difficult. It was frustrating. It didn’t make sense. Reading was a club that everyone else belonged to. It was the cause of shame and embarrassment.
I feel guilty at times because reading came so easily to me, and it is so difficult for many children. Though I never had that difficulty, one of my favorite things to do is to work with struggling readers, not because I like to see frustrated students, but because it is so exciting to be there and watch a student’s pride and delight when the process finally begins to make sense.
My mother devoted her career to literacy. One of her favorite things to do was to give a baby his or her first book. She believed that every child can enjoy reading; they just have to find the right book. I take that as a challenge and love it when I can find just the right book to entice a student to read. I do believe it’s true that once a student finds interesting reading material, the process feels less like work and more like entertainment. It does not matter what the reading material is–car magazines, fashion magazines, picture books, whatever. As long as the child is interested, he or she will keep reading. The other key is that the reading material not be too difficult. It is far better for a child to read something that seems “too easy” than something that is frustrating. Feeling successful makes a child want to read more. Though it is tedious to parents at times, there is great benefit in reading a story to a child again and again. Often, that is how a child “cracks the code.”
My mother has dementia now, and there are things that she struggles to remember, but she is still soothed by books. Her room is filled with them, and if she is restless, listening to someone read calms and entertains her, proof that people of all ages can enjoy being read to.
Below are some of my favorite websites with resources for emerging and struggling readers:
Jim Trelease was one of my mother’s heroes who advocated for reading aloud to children.
I discovered the University of Florida Literacy Institute when COVID hit, and we teachers were looking for good online resources.
The Florida Center for Reading Research has a multitude of resources for teachers and families to use to bolster skills in three key areas for literacy: fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.
The American Dyslexia Association is one of the go-to organizations with resources for individuals diagnosed with dyslexia
ADDitude magazine has excellent information for people dealing with attention issues, but it also has articles about the relationship between attention issues and other learning issues, such as dyslexia. Many strategies they discuss are helpful for all students.