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What Can You Do When Your Child Hates to Read

For many young learners, reading is a tantalizing adventure into the imagination of an author and a fun way to increase knowledge. However, for other learners, reading can be a tedious chore that can result in avoidance and even tantrums.  So, what can you do when a child hates to read?  It is a two-step process.  First, one must reveal the specific difficulty.  Then, one must pick among a number of solutions.
Helping students that hate reading

Uncover the Problem or Problems

There are a number of learning difficulties that can make the process of reading a dull and laborious grind, and uncovering the core cause(s) can help to untangle the turmoil.  This can be done qualitatively by observing a student, or preferably one can pursue comprehensive psychoeducational testing.
  1. Visual processing deficits: Visual processing is a cognitive skill that allows us to process and interpret meaning from information that we see through our eyes, and it plays an important role in academic subjects such as reading, math, and spelling.  To learn about the different types of visual processing, click here.
  2. Labored decoding skills: Decoding is the ability to recognize and analyze printed words and to connect them to spoken words. These skills include the ability to recognize the basic sounds and blends within words, grasp what words mean, recognize words in context, and know whether words are used correctly. Learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, and other cognitive-based processing deficits can make decoding words very difficult, and traditional ways of teaching may not work.  It should be noted that these students often struggle with stamina and attentional difficulties because decoding can be an all-consuming and exhausting process.
  3. Poor comprehension: Studies have shown a direct link between poor comprehension skills and the inability to visualize text. Research also substantiates that students who picture what they are reading, have better comprehension scores, and find greater joy in the reading process. In addition, findings suggest that training in mental imagery helps students generate their own mental images, make inferences, and form accurate predictions.  Finally, studies show that visualization improves deep connections that aid in memory recall and reading comprehension.  
  4. Negative associations: Many struggling readers are continually confronted with negative associations with reading such as poor grades and persistent corrections when they are reading.

Finding the Solutions

Once the cause is determined, the best pathway can be defined.  Parents or tutors can attempt to improve these skills, or one can solicit the professional help of a local reading specialist, learning specialist, or educational therapist. 

1) Visual processing strategies:
  • Consider consulting with a vision therapist.  They can provide exercises for tracking weaknesses, convergence insufficiency, and other visual processing problems.
  • Exercise and improve visual processing skills by playing games. Click here to get a comprehensive list of games.
  • Help them improve and strengthen visual tracking skills, so they can read in a fast and fluid manner. Click here to learn some free strategies.
  • Go to Eye Can Learn and do exercises to strengthen tracking, visual discrimination visual memory, visual sequencing, visual-spatial skills, visual closure, and more...
  • Use text to voice Apps like Voice Dream Reader that highlights the words while it reads the text aloud. This is a natural form of remediation that helps with both visual and auditory processing as well as sound/symbol association. Using their "Pac Man mode," which erases the words as they are read aloud, helps the brain to process without visual overload.
  • Encourage these students to read out loud to themselves or others. This helps the eyes and brain to work in sync.
2) Teaching decoding skills:  Learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, and other cognitive-based processing deficits can make decoding very difficult.  Because reading is arduous, it requires repeated drills and multisensory instruction.
    OG Games
  • Use an Orton Gillingham program that offers a structured, multisensory, step by step approach to teaching reading, writing, and spelling that incorporates the explicit and systematic teaching of phonemic awareness, syllabication, and word morphology. To learn more about some options, Click here.
  • Use supplemental games and multisensory activities to make the reading lessons more engaging and enjoyable for students.
  • Listening to audiobooks can manage the decoding, so readers can focus their effort on visualizing and comprehending the content. 
  • For more specific advice on how to help dyslexic or struggling readers Click here.
3) Addressing comprehension:
  • Teach how to generate personal visualizations and play games to develop this skill. Click Here to learn more.
  • By helping your students learn how to visualize, you can provide them a “secret weapon” that can enhance their learning capacity, improve memory, and spark creativity.  To learn more about this, CLICK HERE.
  • For additional strategies for developing both reading comprehension and reading speed, Click here.
4) Turning negative associations to positive associations:
  • Focus on rewarding reading effort and ignoring the behaviors that you don't want to see.
  • Pair positive associations with reading by creating a cool reading nook filled with pleasantries.
  • Demonstrate how to find answers and create a question box for those that are shy.
  • Praise students for asking questions about their readings and independently finding the answers.
  • Cultivate a reading environment that celebrates and supports exploration.
  • Repeatedly, show that you, too, are comfortable admitting what you don’t know. Then find the answers or allow others to help you find the answers.
  • Always provide gratitude and positive feedback for small accomplishments. 
I hope you found these strategies helpful.  I'm here to help.  Reach out any time.

Cheers, Erica

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator, and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials. She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Learning Specialist Courses.

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