As if homeschooling wasn’t hard enough, when you have a child that is struggling to read and you have tried everything that your curriculum has to offer- things can begin to feel hopeless. I am right here in the midst of this with you, my friend. I know I shouldn’t feel this way, but I am so thankful that I have successfully taught 3 other children to read. If I didn’t have those proverbial notches in my belt, instead of realizing that there is a real struggle happening, I may just equate it to a lack of teaching skills.
This might be exactly where you are. You may be in the middle of teaching your first child to read and are feeling some despair that it isn’t going well. Perhaps you are beginning to feel like this whole homeschooling thing just isn’t going to work out. Or maybe this is your sixth child and you just can’t seem to get a grip on what the problem is.
Over the course of the next few weeks we are going to walk through real strategies to help you overcome that hopeless feeling and get your child on the path to reading.
Part 1: Focus on the Relationship
Focus on the relationship between you and your child. Teaching a child to read requires a lot of patience. Right off the bat they need to know that you are on their side. They won’t take risks unless they know that they are in a safe place. And learning to read is all about taking risks. The best way to do this is to make sure that when you sit down with them for reading time, you are free of your own distractions and are focused solely on them.
Put on your best face. Sometimes, I’m not feeling up for school. If I’m honest, I’m not always in the best of moods when we sit down together. But she doesn’t need to know that. She needs to feel that you are absolutely loving this time together with her. Tell her that. Build her up before you even begin.
Make your time together a time that your child looks forward to, not necessarily because they like learning to read, but because they treasure that time they get to spend with you.
Set the Environment:
Pick a quiet and calm place and/or time of the day when both of you are at your best and free of distractions. Have a place set aside just for the two of you. – Call it your special reading space, or if you are short on space- be creative and tell them that while the two of you are sitting there, this place becomes extra special. – I always ask my daughter if she has her thinking cap on and then I ask her “really hard” questions to double check if her “cap” is working. We joke and laugh when I ask her things like “What does a leprechaun find at the end of the rainbow?”
It’s important that you bring your child close to you during this time. Place your chair next to theirs, sit on the couch together or under blankets. They need to associate this oftentimes, stressful time with something loving.
Praise and Encourage them:
Let your child know that you are excited to help them learn to read, and that you look forward to this time with them and how proud you are of their progress. You can even review some of the words or other things that they have learned.
If you want this time to feel more special- have a small snack or drink ready to share before you get started.
You want this time together to feel unstressed and natural. At the end of the lesson, you want your child to have warm good feelings when they think about reading. Hopefully they will think “sure reading can be hard, but time with mom is pretty awesome.”
Sometimes I like to start off with a picture book, because I know it’s something that she really loves and we can work on reading comprehension skills in a somewhat sneaky way before she thinks we have even began.
Just remember, that the relationship should always trump school. They will never progress in their reading if they feel that they can’t trust that you will offer grace and love when they make mistakes. If they know you are frustrated, they will be frustrated too.
Believe me, I understand what it’s like to have to say “that letter makes the ‘a’ sound” 20,000 times. It takes practice to keep a calm, kind voice. Practice that today.
Don’t miss Part 2 in the Series as we begin to dig into the nitty gritty of teaching reading to struggling readers.
Schooling our children can be absolutely overwhelming, let’s make a commitment together to pray over our children and their schooling. I created this 5×7 printable that is helping me stay accountable. You can get yours here.
You might find this post on Best Resources to Teach Reading helpful.