Reading Strategies and Book Suggestions for Struggling Readers

by Melissa Taylor

Photo credit: ERproductions Ltd, Blend Images/Getty Images

How can you help an older child who struggles with reading? How can you engage, or re-engage them, after they’ve grown frustrated? Here you’ll find helpful strategies plus lots of great book suggestions that are at a lower reading level yet still interesting to kids.

  • Strategies to Help Struggling Readers

  • Assess Reading
    Reading is a complex process. That’s why diagnosing the specific struggle for your child is so important. You can ask your public schools to test your child or get an outside-of-school evaluation. Ask your pediatrician or school to recommended a qualified specialist. [See: 7 Signs Your Child May Have a Reading Issue]

    Find In-School Support
    If you don’t already have documentation, start the process at school to document your child’s reading difficulties and need for extra support.

    Also, advocate for direct reading instruction. (Frequently, classrooms switch from “learn to read” to “read to learn” by the upper elementary grades which can leave struggling readers behind.)

    Get Out-of-School Support
    Find a qualified tutor or a special reading intervention class.

    Consider a brain-based intervention, like at Brain Highways, that works on underdeveloped parts of the brain that affect reading and writing.

    Teach Skills & Strategies
    Teach and reteach phonics, decoding, comprehension, tracking, and fluency. Instruction and practice need to be frequent and explicit. It’s worth mentioning that worksheets and apps are only beneficial for practice and rarely actually teach reading. [See: 8 Ways to Help Kids Understand What They Read]

    Read ‘Just Right’ Books
    Kids are more successful reading a book in which they know most of the words. Show your child how to know when a book is “just right” for them.  [See: What Is a ‘Just Right’ Book?]

    Give Choices
    Struggling readers aren’t usually motivated to read. Provide some incentive by giving your child a choice of which books to read.

    Give Kids Interesting Books
    Kids want to read interesting books with relatable characters and topics. In addition to fiction novels, consider nonfiction, magazines, poetry, blogs, and graphic novels. Check out our book suggestions below for ideas.

    Make Reading Fun
    When learning is unpleasant, learning doesn’t happen. Find ideas to make reading comfortable and enjoyable here. [See: 6 Tips to Make Reading Fun, Not Frustrating]

    Social kids might like a book club. Not to worry, if your book club is reading a difficult book, simply read the book to your child or find it on audiobook.

    At home, it can be beneficial and fun to try to echo read and take turns reading. Echo reading means you read a line first and the child echoes you. Don’t forget to point to each word with your finger as you read it.

    Encourage a Growth Mindset
    Celebrate effort. Help your child see the connection between how effort leads to growth. If this connection is not happening, reassess that the efforts are being made in the right area — are the interventions the best ones? Is the tutor the best choice? Are the books “just right”?