Struggling Readers Need Encouragement

Struggling readers, especially those in the upper grades, tend to carry with them a low reading esteem.  They are aware that they just can’t do it and many times, they lack the motivation to read altogether.  It may even sound like: “I hate to read” or “Reading is boring”.  I know I’ve heard these phrases uttered by some of the upper elementary grade students I’ve tutored.

When I would type up the initial assessment report for the parents, the last thing I wanted to do was focus all my attention on their child’s reading weaknesses.  I always included a section on his/her reading strengths…and that was the part I liked to share with the student. 🙂

When looking through my reports, here are some of the actual comments I used for strengths (feel free to use these if they apply to your child or a child in your classroom):

  • She is skilled in word recognition and decoding (this applied to a 4th grader who could decode on a 6th grade level, but was only comprehending at a 2nd grade level)
  • He has mastered beginning and ending consonants and most short vowel words.
  • When given more than one second, he was able to figure out 4 more words on the word list (10 words long).
  • She went back and self-corrected her errors most of the time while reading the passage.
  • She was able to answer all of the explicit questions correctly on the passage.
  • He went back and re-read when something didn’t make sense in the passage; a sign that he understands that reading is supposed to make sense.

When I’m reading with students or doing word study, I tell students what I like about their reading or spelling.  Here are some things I say to them:

  • You made a very smart mistake because the word you said looks a whole lot like the word in the text.  (This happened just the other day with the words thought and though.)
  • I thought it was really cool how you went back and corrected your mistake when you realized it didn’t make sense.  I do that all the time!
  • You spelled the word exactly how it sounds.  Way to use your ear!
  • I like how you erased that part of the word and spelled it again.  It looked like you were trying to picture the word in your head.  And it paid off, because you spelled it correctly the second time.

By focusing on students’ strengths, it helps them to see specifically how they are growing as readers (aren’t we all??).  It also builds their motivation and reading esteem.  I firmly believe, through my experiences as a teacher, tutor and reading mama, that motivating kids is half the battle.  If a child believes he can’t, he won’t.  Oh, but the power of positive thinking.  If we can instill that into our young readers by being explicit about their reading strengths, then by all means, let’s spread some reading encouragement! 🙂


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Michelle Breum
    Jun 21, 2011 @ 10:39:36

    You have the right attitude and skills to tutor! The parents and students who find you are fortunate. It’s nice you are sharing your knowledge and experiences to help others on your blog too.


  2. rebecca
    Jun 21, 2011 @ 15:21:21

    I love this. I feel like so many of my older struggling readers have such low confidence in their abilities as a reader- but even these reluctant readers have many strengths. I love encouraging a child’s curiosity in learning as well as praising students specifically. So many low readers love to talk about what they read and a very curious learners too. I think we often forget to have kids talk a lot and process what they read. This year I saw several 5th graders’ reading blossom when I zipped my lip, and had them do all the talking and share what was on their mind. It was awesome.


  3. Alida Bunder
    Jun 24, 2011 @ 05:28:52

    Great article! I loved all the comments you use with your students. Keep spreading the word on helping kids feel good about their reading!


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