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Reading Strategies for Struggling Readers

Rujuta Borkar
Are you having problems reading? Is your speed just not fast enough? You might need some steps to improve your reading. And that's what we are going to help you with in this post.
Have you ever come across a non-reader? Maybe you have heard of phrases like "I hate to read, it's very boring.' or 'I never touch a book that's gargantuan to begin with.' And you probably don't think about it again, relegating it to the simple theorem―'To each his own'.
Let's look at this from the reader's point of view. Do you know that there are some people who struggle with even simple reading, let alone speed reading?
You might have experienced this in your school life―students in class who would absolutely struggle through their reading tests. If they were asked to stand up and read in class, they would get nervous and then drag through the piece with a lot of 'umms' and 'errs' much to the annoyance of the teacher.
They were left to wonder how it was possible, that while they struggled through the first paragraph of the page, others had finished the entire essay.
Now here's what the thing is―people who struggle with their reading have not developed the 'reading strategies' that other 'readers' have, without even realizing it. Therefore there is a need to have effective reading strategies for struggling readers.
The good news is that it is possible to learn and teach these. Some of the best strategies have been developed over the years, and that is what we will be discussing in the remainder of this write-up.

Reading Strategies―Details

After it is learned that a person (usually a child), has a problem while reading, the most important thing that a parent can do for him/her is to start teaching him these reading strategies as soon as possible. These strategies are most effective when taught and applied at a young age. The degree of difficulty in learning these increases with age.
Reading strategies for the struggling readers can be divided into two parts:
  1. Decoding Strategies
  2. Comprehension Strategies

Decoding Strategies

This involves teaching the student phonemic awareness. Which means, teaching the students the literal pronunciation of words by breaking them down into bits and pieces.
By learning the bits and pieces that make up a whole word, it is possible for readers to be able to pronounce words that are difficult, unfamiliar, and long because they have good phonemic awareness.
When a reader skips words, 'fades out' words, uses a wrong pronunciation, or avoids reading completely―there is a need to teach him phonemics. Thus, teaching readers the 'sound' of a language (phonemes), becomes very important. After this has been taught, they need to be coached in their use and made to practice the same.
Teaching the students the sounds of the letters helps tremendously when teaching them phonemes. They learn how to pronounce several combinations of these letters and also learn the fact that letters aren't always pronounced the way they look.
Readers also compare words that they don't know with familiar words to understand the difference. Thus it is necessary to have a lit of simple and difficult words to 'look' and learn from.
One can also use chunking as one of the effective strategies. In this, the reader can chunk unfamiliar words. Chunk together parts of a word and then try to pronounce them in parts. Once the entire word has been read in chunks, then try and club the different chunks of the word together to pronounce the entire word. This needs a lot of practice.

Comprehension Strategies

Comprehension means understanding something. While reading a text, a good reader will subconsciously use comprehension skills, so that when you ask him what the text was about, he will be able to answer it.
But a struggling reader does not read to understand, he will simply read a text to get it done with, so when he is asked about the text, he will rarely be able to answer in deep.
Comprehension strategies include teaching the strugglers to re-read a text. Not to be confused with a simple reading of a text again, but rather making a deliberate attempt to understand it.
This can be made easier if the reader reads the text with a goal in mind―he has to find the answer to a question. So when he reads with an objective, he will pay more attention and learn to read better.
Also, rephrasing and then stating a text will help them to read better. When a reader who struggles, reads a text and then relates it back in his own words, his entire concentration is on understanding the text to rephrase it.

Other Strategies

  • Use different strategies like videos and audio tapes to teach the student phonemes.
  • Let him read a very simple text to a younger class so that he becomes confident.
  • Provide him with a partner who can help him read.
  • Form a 'readers play', where readers will come together and read/perform their texts. They'll make it more interesting by adding costumes and different voices to it.
  • Struggling readers work best when they have one-to-one training. Try to find a coach for them.
  • Give positive feedback whenever possible and reward them when they are successful, this will help them stay motivated.
  • Make them write out the words and pronounce them out loud so that you can correct them if wrong.
  • They can also make a note of the word if it looks different and is pronounced different, for better understanding.
  • Start using the decoding and comprehension strategies in daily life. When they learn to use it in daily life, they'll no longer have a block towards them and will learn faster.
Even if you know a struggling reader who would probably have difficulty reading through this piece of writing (rather ironic, isn't it?), be sure that it won't be a problem for long. After you've taken tips from these reading strategies, there will be no looking back. So read well and teach better.