My son is eleven years old.
I clearly remember him in his sweet little preschool classroom at four years old.
He loved the arts, the crafts, the playtime and the other children.
But the letters, the writing his name, the sounds?
Not so much.
Even back then, it was obvious that reading was not his strength.
He has struggled with it since he was four.
For seven years we have been trying to figure this thing out.
He amazes me with his dedication, his tenacity, and his spirit to just keep trying.
I’m not sure if I would keep doing something for seven full years without feeling like I’d mastered it.
(I take that back – Motherhood. I keep doing motherhood without ever really feeling like I’ve mastered it. I have no idea what I’m doing on any given day as a mom, and yet fourteen years later, I keep showing up, keep trying, keep failing and keep learning.)
Parenting a struggling reader is the same mix of trial and error, tears and fears, more trial and error, and just showing up, over and over again.
In order to share what has worked well for my son, I have included a couple of affiliate links below. Thank you for your support!
Over the course of the past seven years, my son and I have both made progress.
He has learned the top 100 sight words.
I have figured out the best ways to help him stay engaged.
Here are my top tips for parents of children struggling in learning to read.
7 Simple Tips For Parents Of Struggling Readers
1. Don’t Panic
This is absolutely my most important tip! It’s easy to slide into the “Oh my goodness, what if he never learns to read…this is all my fault…why is this so hard…maybe we need to try a million other programs, tutors, books…oh no” trap.
My experience has been that it helps no one.
Try instead, to remember that your child is still young and has plenty of time. Even at eleven, my son still has seven years before he is eighteen and an adult. A lot can happen in seven years.
Repeat after me, “Don’t panic.”
2. Change Up The Learning
Sometimes, a child who thinks and learns differently requires a different approach.
This has certainly been true for my son. In fact, we saw very little progress with more traditional reading programs. It wasn’t until we incorporated hands-on, learner-centric activities into our reading lessons that we saw any sort of improvement and retention.
3. Your Child’s Interests Are Learning Resources
My son can read every single Pokemon card in his deck.
He has learned to spell many words by typing them into the Minecraft screen.
I am not ashamed to say that I have used both for reading practice.
4. Audio Books, Audio Books, Audio Books
Seriously, one more time, audio books.
Giving my child the chance to experience wonderful stories and be surrounded by rich language is just as valuable (if not more valuable) than the mechanics and drills in learning to read.
Now that he is older, he loves the freedom and independence audio books provide. (NO, mom. I don’t need you to read it aloud.)
5. Less Is More
Reading is really, really hard work for my son.
I have learned that short (like no more than 10 minutes short) lessons are best for his learning and retention. Any longer, and he begins to lose focus, grow tired and feel defeated.
We do a quick reading lesson in the morning and another reading activity in the afternoon. Both are no more than 10 minutes.
6. Get Help If You Need It
There is no shame in reaching out for help if you have serious concerns. Dyslexia runs in my family, so when my son was still struggling in first and second grade, we had him evaluated.
We also saw an educational therapist for a year to help establish good learning practices and fundamental skills.
7. Focus on Other Strengths
No matter how much my son struggles with reading, there are so many other areas that are strengths for him.
It is just as important, if not more important, to make these a priority in his learning.
He loves science, so we often spend hours on biology and different experiments.
In the beginning, this worried me.
I feared he needed more time working on reading because it was the most difficult subject for him.
The truth is, my son needs to feel confidence as a learner, in order to work diligently in areas that are a struggle.
Focusing on his strengths is teaching him that he can learn, and learn well.
This adds to his ability in reading.
Parenting a child who struggles to read can be so difficult.
The anxiety and worry I felt in my son’s younger years was paralyzing at times.
If you feel the same, please know you are not alone.
Please know that you are doing a great job. After all, you are reading this article. You are looking for resources.
You are doing the best you can for your child.
And it matters.
More than anything I have listed above – it matters.
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