Ways to Help Struggling Older Readers

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"When reading is easy, it is easy to find good reading" is a favorite saying of my friend Katherine Helmuth.  If you are the parent of a struggling reader who is already a teen or older child, you know how challenging it is to find something that they will enjoy reading.  You also know that if your teen is going to improve their reading skills to the point of being able to easily find good reading, they are going to have to learn and practice their reading skills.

1  Remember What it Is Like To Struggle We have all experienced what it is like to feel like we weren't successful in our efforts to try something.  Maybe we even labelled ourselves as being "not good at ___" when really we just needed to work at it more.  This is what struggling readers experience.  Reminding ourselves of what it feels like allows us to accept our children's feelings of frustration and avoidance of reading.

2  Help Them Find Good Reading  People enjoy reading material that has a story or information they can relate to and is at a level of difficulty to which they can understand.  It may seem like struggling older readers may not be able to find anything that is written at their reading level yet relates to the world of teens and young adults.  Fortunately, librarian and book associations regularly print lists of book that are written just for such readers.  Links to two quality book lists for struggling readers  are at the bottom of this article.

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3  Use Movies to Encourage Reading  Struggling readers often do not understand what they are reading.  This can make it difficult to keep their interest, even when they are reading the latest popular teen novel.  Fortunately, Hollywood has been making many of these novels into movies.  If your struggling reader enjoys one of the movies that is based on a popular teen novel, then your teen already has some background of the story.

  They may be able to maintain their interest in the novel, since they understand more easily what is going on. 

4  Ask Them To Tell You About What They Read You can help your struggling reader build their comprehension by checking in with them regularly throughout their reading and asking them to tell you what is happening in their book.  If they can't explain what is happening, you can ask them if there are words they are struggling with, or offer to read a few pages out loud to them to help them got back into their reading.

5  Ask Them What they Think Will Happen Next Another good question to help with reading comprehension is to ask them what they think will happen next.  In order to figure out what might happen, your teen will have to understand what is happening now.  This also helps to create anticipation as your teen will want to know if their guess of what will happen next is right.

6  Relate What Is Being Read To Your Own Lives  Talk with your teen about challenges that the main character in their book faces compares with challenges your own teen has faced.

  Novels like the Percy Jackson series have teens who struggle in school, have strained relationships with their parents, and being misunderstood by adults and their own peers.  These are common issues for today's teens.  The Divergent series features characters who simply don't quite fit in, a common feeling for teens.  Discussing these themes and how they relate to your teens life will help draw your teen further into the story, and motivate them to continue reading.

7  Find Ways To Help Them With Difficult Words.  Sometimes a word that is difficult to read or unfamiliar can stop a reader in their tracks.  Teach your teen to find out the meaning of these difficult words so that they can build their vocabulary and learn to persevere in their reading.  Online dictionaries can be particularly good for struggling readers.  Online dictionaries often have a sound feature that speaks the word so that your teen will know what it sounds like.  Online dictionaries also provide multiple definitions from a variety of sources.

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