Making Reading FUN | The Struggling Reader

Reading IS fun. Does your child know that?
Reading IS fun. Does your child know that?
The Struggling Reader
The Struggling Reader

Jonathon walked through the door. He was six years old and had been identified as a struggling reader. His parents had told me he did not enjoy tutoring and especially did not like reading; I told them to just get him in the door. Here he was. We spent the next 45 minutes fishing, traveling to distant islands, throwing confetti, talking, and being silly while his dad watched through one-way glass. When he left, Jonathon had no idea we had just worked on his reading skills, or that I had identified that he knew six sight words and roughly two-thirds of the alphabet. His dad asked me where I had learned how to do that, and Jonathon asked his dad if he could come back tomorrow. He reads on grade level now.

Children naturally acquire spoken language; we often expect them to pick up reading just as easily. While sometimes children do easily pick up reading, others struggle to figure out how to read and are left behind by their peers. This can become a vicious cycle, the student who sees others thriving often does not want to put forth effort because they don’t think they can, thus falling even further behind!

This hub is for the parent, teacher, or tutor of the struggling reader. Or simply for those who want to make reading as enjoyable as possible! This hub is targeted for the younger child (8 and younger) but some of the ideas may be adapted for the older child.

Books for the Struggling Reader


Hub-author's all-time favorite children's book!


Environment: Children who are immersed in literature will be more likely to read. Kind of like the adult who is surrounded by chocolate will most likely eat it! Visit the library often, buy books instead of toys, and make sure there are books in most rooms your child visits. This preparation will ensure there is a book nearby when your child starts wanting to read!

Allow your child to pick their own literature; a love for books begins when they are allowed to select what suits their own tastes. If your child doesn’t like the “reading” part of books, try books like Where’s Waldo? and I SPY. These are extremely popular with beginning readers; children love searching for the hidden pictures and begin building a love for books in general—which is important!

Attitude: If your child is a struggling reader, forcing them to read is not likely to be effective. Instead, be sneaky about reading. Work on reading skills through games or read wordless picture books, like Flotsam and Tuesday, and let your child come up with the story. The best thing you can do for the child who dreads reading is to get them to love words and books. If you can get them to love both, it is only a matter of time before they love reading!

Skills: Most children who struggle with reading, lack proficiency in reading skills. As a teacher, I encourage parents to play a reading game, instead of reading for homework, if they have a struggling reader. Basically, take the words or letters or sounds your child doesn’t know and be silly enough that they want to learn them! This is the premise for all of the following games. Here are a few sure-fire ideas to get you thinking:

Fishing: Remember that carnival game with the magnetic fishing pole that you threw over the plywood ocean and someone on the other end attached a prize that you hauled back over? It’s quite easy to grab a yardstick, some yarn, a magnet, and a few paperclips to fish behind your couch. Make the fish into whatever it is your child needs to learn, be it words, sounds, or letters and let the fun begin!

Obstacle Course: Go ahead and turn your living room or classroom into a reading machine! Set up jumping, tightrope walking, crawling, squeezing, and spinning obstacles for your child. The catch? They must correctly say the word at each obstacle before passing through.

Laundry Basket-Ball: Get out some laundry baskets and a ball. Let your child throw the ball into baskets of different difficulties (further, higher, smaller, etc.) with words attached to each basket. If they get the ball in AND read word correctly, they get however many points you wish! (Go ahead and join them, winning against mom or dad is more fun!)

Be creative, allow your children to make up their own games, as long as it includes repeated, meaningful exposure to what they need to know, it really doesn’t matter how they want to do it! You can look here for more games.

Work on about 10 words, word parts, or letters at a time, when one is completely mastered, phase it out, checking back occasionally.

Reading: Once your child is armed with words they know, allow them to read you “their words” as you come across them reading a book. Give your child a choice between highly engaging books like Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type and The Cat in The Hat. Or for slightly older children, The Magic Treehouse, and Junie B. Jones books. Don’t be surprised if your child doesn’t recognize “their words” in this new context, the struggling reader sometimes has trouble understanding that a word is always a word, no matter where it is! Show them the word on the paper you have been playing with and compare it with the word in the book.

Remember to keep it fun, take as long as your child needs on any given word, sound, or letter. Jonathon took a very, very long time to learn the word “the” but when he started making connections, his attitude went from “I can’t read” to “I can read, let me read that!” What a difference self-confidence makes!

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Comments 6 comments

thewahm profile image

thewahm 4 years ago

What a great hub! Self-confidence has a lot to do with reading! My youngest daughter who is 5 can read better than my 7 year old. The difference? The confidence levels between the girls. I'm working with my 7 year old to encourage her and prove to her she needs to be more confident and she will be a better reader.

EDU 101 profile image

EDU 101 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Thank you! Oh yes, what a difference that self-confidence can make! Best of luck with your girls!

ChaplinSpeaks profile image

ChaplinSpeaks 4 years ago from Charleston, South Carolina

Thank you for an important message to help others instill a love of reading in their children. My own son has a language-based learning disability, so reading has been a struggle. Thank you for some ideas to lighten it up and make it fun! Voted UP.

EDU 101 profile image

EDU 101 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Thank you! I hope the ideas work well for you!

kallini2010 profile image

kallini2010 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

Thank you, EDU101, for this article. Daniel is eight and NOW he will read only what he wants.

So far, he likes "The Wizard of Oz". I read him this book in Russian (and he was PROTESTING), but once we got over his protests (that was maybe a year or a couple of years ago), he likes the book. There is an animated Russian film - he loves it. Now he is ready to read the English version, all on his own.

I was thinking about suggesting "Tom Sawyer". Do you think it is a good idea? Or just let him pick whatever he wants in the library and pretend that "there is no guidance"?

He loves science, anything that requires experimentation. Crafts, as well. Anything "hands-on". Yesterday I was "mad" at him for the mess he "created" with candles - wax was all over the laminate floor. He cleaned it up and then asked me "Would you like some fried potatoes?"

I have agreed thinking it is one of the consequences of being in "The Cooking Club". No, it was much simpler. Now, he figured out that to change my "mood", he can treat me to some Food. He will bring me a plate of strawberries, he might make me a smoothie and will add "decoration" or as it happened yesterday "Fried Potatoes". He has never done it before and he did a good job.

The good news - now, instead of saying "I am a jerk, I am so stupid and ugly", he said "Mom, I am so CREATIVE. I enjoy my CREATIVITY".

So, I think, we are going in the right direction.

Yesterday he was writing a letter to his new friend from Texas (a grandson of my HP friend). Writing is a struggle for him, but I loved his content. We will make it "a creative project".

I think I went on a tangent - I apologize - I have a migraine and it is killing me.

What I should have said - I appreciate your writing on the topic. It is very thoughtful and it is very helpful.

Thank you so much,

Amy Tinklepaugh profile image

Amy Tinklepaugh 4 years ago from United States

Enjoyed your insight and have to agree with it 100 percent. I have found that encouraging children to read to their pets is a great way to instill confidence in reading outloud and really makes the pets happy, too!

It is so important for people to know that they can read for fun, too. When I was a college freshman, I met another freshman who could barely read. He was already struggling because, as you know, in college, reading is absolutely necessary. I found out what he was interested in (sci-fi). I found books of about an 8th grade level that were just fun to read. He read the entire five-book series and then went on to keep reading and reading. He discovered I was right: there is an entire, wonderful world hidden between the covers of a book.

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