Helping the Struggling Reader


Helping the struggling reader requires calmness on all sides.


  • The ability to learn requires self-control, cooperation, and confidence
  • When emotionally upset, students cannot pay attention, learn, or remember.
  • And it takes more effort to teach a student who has encountered years of failure than it does to teach a young one.
  • Nevertheless, a positive attitude can break down low concepts of self-esteem. Here are some guidelines for helping the struggling reader:
  1. Be positive. Give real praise often. For some new ways to say, “Good Job!” view Reading Spotlight’s free tip: Praise Brings More than Smiles.
  2. Reduce the distractions during lessons by providing a quiet place to learn.
  3. Make lesson sessions short and more frequent, rather than one long lesson.
  4. Give simple, exact directions.
  5. Be sure to work at a level that insures success. Begin at an independent reading level (See Choosing Books), and then move to the more desired, instructionally appropriate level.
  6. Provide a large amount of repetition in different ways.  Help these students overlearn in order to achieve the learning goal and build confidence.  Our Vowel Tutor Worksheets,  Learn To Read Bingo Games  and Word Search Puzzles supply some alternatives to boring phonics workbook pages. They also rely on cluster identification, a format that is often successful with those who have failed to learn decoding skills with phonics instruction.
  7. Model the correct process so that (s)he will be able to copy you and, sometimes even without understanding why, they will succeed.
  8. Offer immediate feedback so that the learner knows whether the answer is correct or not. Traveling along a wrong path for too long causes a need for much more intensive correction than immediately letting the student know whether (s)he is right or wrong.
  9. Punishments and rewards do not work as well as challenge. Challenge will generate better effort.


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