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How NOT to Help a Struggling Reader

Sometimes being a homeschool mom just flat out sucks. Lately, those “sometimes” have turned into “a lot of times.” Willpower out the window, our days quickly fill with tension and grumpy-pants instead of laughter and learning. Hey, we’re only human, right? Dealing with a struggling reader can suck the fun out of your day faster than anything!

Looking for ways to NOT help a struggling reader? Perfectly put and made me stop and look at the strggle differently.

Picture this: We’re cuddled up on the couch with a snuggly blanket,  the warmth of a wood fire fighting off the early morning chill. My 8 year old has grabbed her current reading book and is resting her head on my shoulder, seemingly without a care in the world. We’re back in the same spot again, though. The same place as yesterday and also the day before. Comfortable, cozy and stubborn as a mule. Instead of diving into her book, she sits and stares blankly at the pages, hoping to stall long enough that I will forget that she is supposed to be reading aloud to me.

There are hundreds of things my little lady is amazing at doing, but reading isn’t one of them. She knows how to read, she just doesn’t enjoy it. Growing up in the shadows of her bookworm sister probably doesn’t help much, either. And let’s be honest, most people don’t enjoy doing things they aren’t good at.   After all, who likes to struggle and fail, time and time again? Certainly not me! So when my 8 year old stalls and runs with any opportunity to distract me, I know it’s time to shake some things up.

How do I help my struggling reader find a love of reading? How do I show her all that books have to offer?   How do I teach her to dig in and escape into an entirely different world, through a book? Not by yelling, belittling or nagging. That’s for sure.

Some days, I feel like mom of the year and others I feel like I don’t even deserve to be a mom. I find myself becoming aggrevated, short and nitpicky with my kids when they give up too easily.  So I tend to push harder and harder, which typically only makes things only worse.

By pushing my kids too hard,  I am really only pushing them further and further away. I want them to have a natural curiosity about the world we live in. I want them to enjoy reading everything, from fairy tales to biographies, or at least enjoy the darn Junie B. Jones book that I selflessly suffer through. I want them to find knowledge attractive, so they’ll accumulate more and more of it in their lifetime. But instead of gently encouraging, I often times find myself pushing too hard.

While my 8 year old struggling reader blankly stares down at her book, I find myself wanting to scold her for being stubborn. I want to yell and scream about how she’s wasting time. I want to get my point across to her, as quickly and passionately as possible. But is that the right way? Is pushing her to do more, to read a book she doesn’t even enjoy, really the answer to my problem? No, it’s definitely not. And while I realize this, it’s so much easier to yell than to take a step back and reexamine the situation.


Instead of making my sweet girl feel like she is lacking, I now push myself to try new ways to make reading fun. We no longer sit for what seems like eternity while she reads aloud. Instead, we go outside and practice spelling with chalk on the sidewalk. We sing silly phonics songs. We play a computer game, like Reading Eggs, to instill more reading skills. We learn new vocabulary words. We play spelling games. We piece together words with letters we’ve cut from old magazines.  We learn in ways that don’t cause her stress and anxiety.

I will do anything I can think of to make her feel successful.  The rest of the world will always be there to knock her down and make  my struggling reader feel like she isn’t good enough. And I’ll be damned if I will become just another negative voice that only pushes her self esteem lower and lower , too! Nope, it won’t happen! I’ll learn to grit my teeth, bite my tongue and praise instead of reprimand. I’ll encourage instead of discourage. I’ll love instead of scare. I’ll be her biggest cheerleader, through the tears, struggles and disappointments. I’ll teach my struggling reader to do her best and not give up.  And I’ll teach her all of these things with love, respect and understanding.


If you're at your wits end with your struggling reader, you CANNOT afford to miss this. Great advice that I'm starting RIGHT NOW.