Story Sunday: Increasing Confidence In Struggling Readers

1To start off this week’s Story Sunday I would like to explore the idea of reading confidence.

For struggling readers there is often a great deal of self-judgment surrounding the difficulties they experience- and it can make them hate reading. In order to develop a love of reading it has to be an enjoyable process in which readers are confident in their abilities. So how can you help struggling readers build their confidence?

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Book choice: There is something very fulfilling about finishing the last page of a book. Readers should choose manageable books, and teachers can help facilitate these choices. This doesn’t mean forcing students into overly simple books that they will not be interested in, if a student is passionate about struggling through a difficult book that they find interesting you can encourage them to persevere and support them through the process. Regardless of the reading level there are interesting books to be found, and all books that we suggest to students should be something we would be willing to read ourselves. Ultimately the decision over what book to read should be left up to the student- only they know what stories or ideas they will truly enjoy or would like to explore. However, you can suggest book choices that you think would be a good fit for both a student’s reading level and interest. For instance: the book series Horrible Harry is often a good choice to increase reading confidence as there are several stories contained within the book. Students can feel a sense of accomplishment for finishing each story, rather than the whole book. For older readers try a book of short stories: Boy’s Own is a great short story collection for boys and girls alike, and Chicken Soup for the Soul books are engaging, with a variety of story lengths and difficulties, and have been popular for years.

Don’t Overanalyze: So now a child has read a story, and their feeling pretty good about it. The problem now is that this fragile confidence could be shattered with a simple question. “So what did you think of this part?” Asking children to regurgitate what they read or analyze it early on could be a blow to their confidence if they are still processing the story. Let them bring it up instead. Ask them “did you like the book?” and let them lead any conversations from there.

Track Data But Don’t Compare: It can be very satisfying for a student to track their reading with data. You can record the number of books, pages, or chapters that they’ve read. The biggest problem that comes with tracking data is if students compare their data to others. I am personally opposed to class tracking systems that are displayed within the classroom. Students who have not read as much as others feel ashamed and less intelligent than their peers, it will decrease their confidence and make them further resistant to reading.

Read Along: Ask many people why they like reading and they will say its because they can see a movie playing in their head, its entertaining, and an interesting story! When you have a struggling reader this likely isn’t their experience. Instead they are focused on one word at at time and they don’t get to see the story in this way. Following along with an audio tape, or reading a passage and then listening to it, can give students the experience of picturing the story, while also developing their reading skills.

Yellow Overlay: You might have heard about using yellow plastic translucent overlays to help dyslexic students ground words on the page. This trick isn’t just for dyslexic students, it can help students transitioning to reading longer passages of text.

Space: The most valuable thing you can give a struggling reader is the time, space, and encouragement to read at their own pace and in an atmosphere in which they are comfortable. A quiet corner without distractions or a comfy cushion might be enough to help a reader sink into a story. If you have silent reading time in your classroom be sure to read a bit as well to model the habit for your students and demonstrate how it can be an enjoyable pastime.  It can take a while for students to sink into the reading mindset, so give ample time for free reading whenever possible.

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Peer Recommendations: Students might be Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 1.58.46 PMmore open to trying a new book, or be more interested in a story if it has been recommended by a peer. Have students discuss the books they are reading with one another, or rate them on something like this Class Book Chat form (which you can download for free here).

How do you increase confidence in struggling readers in your classroom or with your child? I’d love to have you link up, or to hear from you in the comments below.

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Story Sunday 2
(link back using this button in your post)

Story Sundays are about exploring the conversation surrounding how a love of reading can be fostered in children, and how this passion can be ignited in the classroom.

  • Do you have any great strategies for encouraging a love of reading in your classroom?
  • What are you reading in your classroom right now?
  • What activities do you use to engage students with a story?
  • What books have personally inspired you as a teacher?
  • How do you make reading exciting for your students?
  • What are your thoughts? I would love to hear them when you link up during Story Sunday. 
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