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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Building Self Confidence and Combating Stress for Struggling Readers

Image courtesy of photostock @ freedigitalimages.net

Learning to read can be one of life's most stressful events for a child. For some children, picking up phonics and spelling seems like second nature. For others, the reading process sparks long-lasting low confidence and a chronic distaste for schoolwork. There are several critical issues that can block a child's reading, which we have written about, but an important one for most struggling readers is confidence and stress. Parents often find it difficult to know how to build up self-confidence in a child while also correcting their mistakes. Pairing praise and criticism is not an easy job, so we have a special rule that helps to keep the two in balance.
We recommend something called The Rule of 5. The Rule of 5 states that for every one time you have to correct your child, you have to praise her five times.
This formula comes from a simple idea that I'm sure every parent would acknowledge: even children with good self-worth take corrections as criticisms. For a struggling learner, the very act of trying to read exposes him to lots of public failure - in front of a teacher, peer or just a parent. A word of correction, even gently spoken, can further lead to despair if it's not balanced with praise for little achievements as well. Getting into a pattern of praising success re-routes that negativity and confidence grows.
We call it The Rule of 5 simply to make this general praise-first model more tangible. You could decide to implement a Rule of 4 or even a Rule of 9! The point is to give yourself a challenge which you can then measure yourself against. As humans, we are better at performing to a specific task than a general one.
Especially if your child struggles with school and has fragile self-esteem, The Rule of 5 not only increases confidence but also will usually improve academic performance. Stress can be a main cause of reading difficulty, because your body responds to stress by shutting down the learning centers in the brain. This is a part of the "fight or flight" response. The body focuses all of its energy on responding to the threat, at the expense of non-essential functioning like digestion and learning. So once some of that school-related stress has been alleviated, the brain is much better prepared for the learning environment.
Give this a try and let us know what you find. I doubt a single reader will be disappointed!
By guest blogger, David Morgan

David Morgan is the founder of Morgan Learning Solutions and creator of the Easyread System. Easyread is a computer-based program that helps children with dyslexia, auditory processing disorder and highly visual learning styles improve their reading and spelling through Guided Phonetic Reading techniques.

David Morgan is also the founder of the not-for-profit site: www.HelpingEveryChildtoRead.com

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