Making Reading a Priority for Struggling Readers

January 17, 2020

Making Reading a Priority for Struggling Readers

Distractions, viewing books as a bore and simply not reading enough can affect a child’s literacy potential and growth.  

Donna Nomann, M. Ed, has more than 20 years of experience as an educator and reading intervention specialist, and she knows firsthand how to help children embrace reading. 

If your child is resisting reading, here’s Nomann’s advice on how to help them.

Practice Makes Permanent

It happens multiple times per school year.  A parent will ask me, “Why does my child have to read for twenty minutes? We are very busy!”  My answer is simple: Practice makes PERMANENT! The research is clear, students who read daily are often the most successful in school.  It comes down to a simple mathematical comparison:

Student A

Reads 20 minutes per day

Student B

Reads 5 minutes per day

Student C [AJ1] 

Reads 1 minute per day

Result:  1.8 Million words per year Result:  282,000 words per year Result: 8,000 words per year
Outcome:  90th Percentile on Standardized Tests Outcome:  50th Percentile on Standardized Tests Outcome:  10th Percentile on Standardized Tests

(Nagy, Anderson, Herman, 1987)

The more books a child reads, the more words they acquire. Reading every day also helps increase fluency and comprehension. As a child’s comprehension and fluency builds and grows, so too might their overall standardized test scores.

Those 20 minutes are vital to a child’s literacy, but parents should not assume that a book plus a clock equals reading success. Unfortunately, one of the pitfalls of nightly reading minutes is the threat of distractions. 

Yes, kids may say they are reading in their room, but gadgets, screens, and other diversions can keep their brains from fully focusing on the book in their hands. 

So, how can parents help remove distractions to help children fully enjoy and immerse themselves in the book?

Improving Reading Focus

Here are a few tips to increase your child’s focus while reading for twenty minutes a day:

Create an area together which is free from distraction. Make it cozy and inviting.

TV, music, pets and other stimulation compete for a child’s attention. A quiet place where a child looks forward to spending time encourages focus and comprehension.  Consider creating the area together. If you have your child study at the kitchen table, sit together and notice the possible distractions around the area. Having a desk facing the wall often works well for children who have difficulties staying focused. 

Set up the weekly schedule that best meets your family’s schedule.

Every family is different. Some do homework at the same time every day.  More often though, families are fitting in homework and reading time between dance classes, sports practices, and music lessons.  Consider using a weekly calendar to plot out “Reading Time”. The Readability App allows families to pre plan study time and even reminds you when it is time to read. 

Explain why reading is so important and is a family focus.

Sometimes kids just don’t understand the importance of reading. Parents can talk about why reading helps us in life–beyond school. Of course, parents also should read by example. Parents should read with their kids. Grab a book and create a family reading time! 

Let your child know you are excited to watch their progress in reading. 

Be positive during reading time. Let children know how happy you are when they begin a new book. After they finish it, ask them a few questions about why they liked it. Don’t quiz kids or turn the book into an academic lesson. You may find out that your child hated the book, and that happens. We don’t love everything we read but find out why they did or didn’t like the story. Was it too difficult? Too sad? Maybe the characters just didn’t resonate. 

We are all motivated by watching our progress. When it comes to reading, specific praise and encouragement is highly motivating.  

As a child advances, recognize effort and progress. Recognition is a positive reward for so many kids.

Consider creating a goal chart with your child.  When your child meets a goal, celebrate! Choose a unique reward system for your child–this could be stickers or maybe extra privileges.

Making Reading a Priority for Struggling Readers

Make Reading a Priority

The lack of time also is a major battle that many parents can’t overcome. Some parents simply don’t have enough minutes in the day to sit with kids and read. 

In many households, one or both parents must balance a demanding work schedule with school, housework, meal prep, homework, bath time and much more. The reality is that our schedule as parents at times does not allow us to be able to sit with our child. That is not something a parent should feel guilty about. It just means a little help can make all the difference.

Years ago, I would record my own children on video camcorders while I was researching Literacy development in beginning readers. To this day, I cherish these recordings. To hear their sweet, young voices reading is a treasure! 

Readability uses cutting edge technology to create a recording of your child reading. It has the capability to calculate accuracy rates, fluency (words per minute) and comprehension. The technology is programmed to keep your child reading at the appropriate level for maximum progress.  At the end of each week, a report can be downloaded and sent to the classroom teacher to give credit for reading 20 minutes a day.

It’s well known that reading is a powerful key for success in education; but reading also opens children to a whole world of discovery where they can imagine themselves as doctors, engineers, artists and so much more. Nevertheless, just as important, it gives them tools to achieve success in these fields. 

Who knows what inspiration for success in life your child will find in a book?