STRATEGIES TO HELP CHILDREN GAIN READING CONFIDENCE
Each student is entirely different to the child sitting them next to them; they all have different interests, abilities, and strategies for learning. This makes it difficult to find a concrete strategy to help every child in your class develop into a confident reader. Before you even get to the stage of helping a child to improve their reading ability, it is essential to try and identify which part of the reading process they are struggling with. Reading Rockets’ ‘Target the Problem!’ online tool can be useful for this. Once you understand why a student is struggling, it is easier to help them develop strategies to overcome their problem.
You could write a whole book on the various strategies to help children become more confident readers so this blog will be more of a starting point than a comprehensive guide. The strategies we found fell into four main categories that we’ve called: mindset, environment, enjoyment, and consolidation.
It is important to remind yourself that students will always sit at different ability levels and that’s okay. Not every student will become a bookworm or even enjoy reading, but it is an essential skill for them to learn. Having the right mindset when attempting to help students build reading confidence is vital. The most important thing to remember (for both teacher and student) is that it’s okay to read slowly. Speed and fluency are not as important as accuracy and comprehension. It doesn’t matter if a student can read out loud flawlessly if they don’t understand what they are saying.
Help students to develop strategies that play to their strengths and celebrate every success, even if it’s just with a high-five. It’s vital that any plan you create contains smaller, concrete goals to remind students that they are progressing even if they are not quite where they want to be. It doesn’t matter if they are taking small steps, as long as they are moving forward.
The classroom environment impacts students’ learning capabilities on all fronts, but especially in areas where they don’t feel confident. Creating a safe environment where children feel supported to read at their own pace is crucial. Having opportunities to read and plenty of books and other reading materials available creates a space where reading is part of the norm. Children are also more likely to read if they can choose what and how they want to read. Making a daily habit of ‘reading time’, either out loud to the class or in groups, gives students a consistent chance to work on their reading ability. It also lets them know that during this time it is always okay to ask questions about reading.
If you find specific questions being repeated, hang labelled diagrams, or other word filled posters around the classroom as a reminder. Grouping readers by ability level can be a great way to tailor reading time to address specific problems that children are having while teaching them to support their fellow students.
It may seem obvious, but kids don’t like reading if they don’t enjoy it. This creates a snowball effect where a student avoids reading because they’re ‘not good at it’ and don’t enjoy it which causes them to fall further behind. This makes it vital to create fun and positive reading experiences. When reading out loud to the class try and throw yourself into the story. Gasp when something shocking happens and laugh when a character makes a joke. Even older students enjoy a more immersive reading experience. Take a technique from drama class and assign different characters’ dialogue to different students. The more they read, the better they will get, so it is important to help children find stories that they enjoy even if they are not a perfect match for the curriculum.
An excellent strategy is to try and find a series or genre that kids can get hooked on, but don’t be afraid to let kids read the same book multiple times. Many people still find value in this as adults, and it is an excellent way for kids to feel confident that they really ‘get’ a book. This will hopefully encourage them to continue reading even if it is difficult. Sharing some of your own favourite childhood reading experiences can be a great way to help your students build their enthusiasm for reading.
Comprehension of a story is as important as the ability to read it. Reaching the back cover of a book doesn’t have to be where the story ends. Having a conversation about a book after reading it can help students to solidify their understanding of the story. These conversations can also be an excellent opportunity to link stories to people, places, and things your student know and care about. Summary charts detailing characters, settings, conflicts, and solutions can help guide discussions and provide a focus for students with comprehension problems. Summary charts can also help students remember the storyline when reading longer books. Vocabulary lists are another great way for students to build confidence in other aspects of literacy while improving their reading.
Just because a student can read a word, doesn’t mean they understand it. This affects comprehension, and if ignored can make students hesitant to ask for help later on when the word reappears. Creative projects that build on a story are another fun way of helping children develop their comprehension without pressure.
Most of the time having trouble with reading is not due to a diagnosable condition, but it is a good idea to keep an eye out just in case. Conditions such as Dyslexia, ADHD, Auditory Processing Disorder, or visual processing issues can all contribute to problems with reading. Children shouldn’t have to struggle needlessly for lack of a diagnosis that could bring them the support they need. If a student has demonstrated signs of attention or processing problems for at least six months with no improvement, it might be a good idea to talk to their parents about possible next steps.
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