How to encourage a discouraged reader:

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Think of reading as a means to an end.  It is just a way to absorb information. We want children to develop a love for reading by realizing there are imaginative worlds, far-off galaxies, crazy characters, and intriguing plotlines contained within those two hard covers.  Reading is also our access to information.  Without it, we cannot read our emails, read about the latest scientific discovery, or keep updated on the news in our town.  But when your child comes off the starting line as a resistant, reluctant, or troubled reader, it can be like pulling teeth to improve this vital skill.  For those children struggling with dyslexia and reading comprehension, it’s no wonder that reading is such a chore.  It just isn’t fun!  Reading is hard work from the start, so our job as parents and educators is to bring some fun back into the equation, teach in a relaxed and effective way, and show our children why working hard is the means to a wonderful end.

Here are some quick tips to encourage your reluctant reader at home:

1. Books on tape.  Some kids need the auditory input to stay engaged.  Use a book on tape and let them follow along with the story.

2. Keep reading aloud. Even if your child can read on their own, they still need time every day to just listen as you read. Pick a high-interest book with a great storyline and read it together.  “Harry Potter”, Laura Ingalls Wilder books, “Ender’s Game”, “Ivy and Bean”… all of these stories can capture the imagination.

 

3. Switch off reading.  You do a page, I’ll do a page. No pressure, you get a break while I read. I help you with a word if you are struggling too much.

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4. Comic books, magazines, recipes, instructions on how to fix something… These all count as reading and may serve as a catalyst for encouraging your reluctant reader.  I worked with a student who narrated out the instructions to his Star Wars Lego kit.  He then read the instructions to his brother.

Mini-articles online about Minecraft (http://www.minecraftinfo.com/Articles.htm).

Pen pal letters to a cousin.

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It doesn’t have to be Shakespeare, and we are encouraging reading for enjoyment.

5. Lastly, use music.  Use the words to a favorite song, look up lyrics online, or create a rap about something your child enjoys doing.  Music can bridge the phonological processing and fluency difficulties a child may have.

 

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Getting the Environment Right (and focusing on the positive)

 

 “He can’t sit still at school!”  “She always gets annoyed by her brother at home when they are playing!”  So often we want to focus on the problem areas, the situations where our children aren’t meeting our expectations, that we forget to look for clues in the activities and environments where they are excelling. As you work on communication skills with your child, give thought to the environments where they are thriving.

 

I work with children who can hold it together well at school, but unleashed upon the home environment, every bit of self-control seems to fly out the window.  They disobey, push their parent’s buttons, and antagonize their siblings.  Conversely, I also know children who can’t seem to focus at school on their academic work, but stay occupied and focused for an hour building a Lego set with 1000 pieces in their backyard at home.

 

You can find clues in your child’s favorite pastimes.  If they hold it together well at school, look at the structure in place within the school environment.  There is a set schedule, set rules, and announcements which are reviewed every day.  The expectations are consistent, the transitions mostly predictable, and the time for breaks and down time logical.  Some of our most difficult children need the most structure. They need overkill with repetition, transition preparation, and a review of expectations.

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If your child is falling apart at school, consider how their learning can tap into the multisensory environment they love at home.  Outside time, physical breaks, sensory reinforcement (like sitting on a wiggle cushion or having a hand-fidget), hands-on learning… all can help refocus and energize their learning.

 

What ideas can you find from the activities your child loves?  Why do they love that karate class?  How about digging in the backyard?  What makes them read for hours in the backyard hammock?  Make a list of everything you can think of that about that environment (“She loves reading fantasy, she can go at her own pace”), and include the sensory components of each (e.g. “it’s sunny and quiet, the hammock rocks back and forth,”etc.)  Then circle the elements of each activity that you could replicate for another, more challenging situation.

 

Need help?  List your child’s favorite activity and environment below, and we’ll come up with some ideas.

Where Was I…?

 

Do any other parents do this??

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I have to leave my reading material open to the page I’m on (bookmarking doesn’t seem as effective) since I am “called away” so frequently when reading. The life of a mom, I s’pose! It can take me several days to finish one magazine article!

I also have an ever-growing pile of books on the nightstand! Seems like my library “holds” all come up at the same time. So much to read, so little time… 🙂

Reading Ahead in Summer

The transition from third to fourth grade is probably the most important transition a student will make during their school career, especially as it relates to reading.

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If your child is struggling with reading fluency during the early elementary years, summertime can be a critical season for intensive literacy intervention. Deciphering exactly where your child is missing pieces in their foundation is key. Difficulties with phonological awareness, reading comprehension, and reading fluency can have different underlying causes, and it’s important for a thorough evaluation to determine what you as a patent can do to help support your child.
For an interesting article from the International Dyslexia Association, click here

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As parents, the thought of intervention when our kids are still so “young” is often troubling. But I have yet to meet a professional who doesn’t advocate for early intervention services when warranted. It can change the direction of your child’s academic path.

Summertime, and when to take a break…

After a couple of conversations with the parents of a now-9th-grader (get ready high school!), it was decided that he should take a break from services for the summer and tackle summer on his own. Many of the students I serve have received therapy services for most of their childhood.  Some are on-again, off-again services.  Some students have transitioned from early intervention services to specific intensive services within the fields of occupational therapy, psychology, speech-language pathology… you name it, these kids (and families!) have sacrificed many hours to intervention.

As a parent, how do you know if it’s time to take a break?  Some summer backsliding occurs for almost all kids, regardless of their outside support.  But there are also areas of positive growth ~ from exploring during free play, to reading books of their choice, to helping out at summer camp.

It’s hard to do as a parent of a special-needs child.  To say “buh-bye” to the support for a few months and let your child have a break.  But honestly, it’s sometimes the best thing for both your child and the professionals in their care.  Having a break allows for all to reinvigorate for the fall.  It allows your child to just “be”, to not focus on “what’s wrong”, but on “what can we do today?”

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You know your child the best.  I try to challenge my students.  I try to push them just a little bit harder than their other teachers or parents might push them.  I try to increase their resiliency bit by bit throughout the year. And I love seeing their confidence and perseverance grow as a result.  But just like adults, children need to work towards something.  Knowing that hard work will be rewarded with a vacation at the end of the summer.  Knowing that they have two weeks off to just play. Whatever it is, make sure you help your child work towards that “break”.  A time without focusing on therapy appointments. You need it, too!

World Read Aloud Day

Wednesday is World Read Aloud Day!  Try setting aside some extra time to read your child’s favorite books.  After all, you’re doing great things for their language skills when you read aloud to them.

Research has shown that children who are read to regularly and frequently before they begin school have better oral language skills than those children who are not read to.  When a child listens to stories and discusses them with an interested adult, they develop knowledge about the world and understand words and concepts that cannot be learned easily from casual conversation.

Although you may get tired of reading that same book over and over, your child benefits from hearing the language over and over.  And don’t just read the book, give it all you’ve got.  It’s your time to perform ~ be dramatic and animated and look excitedUse different voices, create characters, get your child involved in making sound effects, and model how to ask questions about what is happening.

What are your favorite family books to share?  Tell us which ones capture your child’s attention the most!