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Read Aloud to Struggling Readers During March is Reading Month and Beyond!

A revisit and update to How Can I Get my Reluctant Child to Read! Blog post--May 25, 2020

Some children take to reading naturally and will proceed from learning letters to knowing their sounds and then onto simple stories. Others, due to a variety of reasons, may find the process very difficult. It is important to meet your child where they are at in a positive way. Showing your frustration will just compound the negative feelings that they may already be experiencing. Many neurodivergent kids have trouble learning to read or extract meaning from the words. It takes many executive functions (mental skills like processing and memory, etc.) to read and understand what we read.

One of the most important ways to foster a love (or at least a like) for reading is read to them. In Jim Trelease’s book The Read Aloud Handbook, he explains that a parent who reads to their child who is cuddled up next to them is providing the foundation of a lifelong love of books. In the future, when they open a book, the warm feeling that they associated to when their parents read to them will come back; the book will be inviting and feel like a safe place to be. He read to his children everyday until they graduated high school. Most people don’t stick it out that long, but I encourage you to bridge into the elementary years, even after your child is reading independently.

Choose books that they enjoy, knowing that books that we grew up with may now be outdated. I loved Little House on the Prairie, but when I read it to my daughter, it fell flat. But the Junie B. Jones was a favorite. What I like about reading a series is the tone, voice, and characters are the same, so it feels like reading about an old friend which strengthens their personal bond with books. For more recommendations, check out the brochure I created, Raising Your Child to Love Reading:

We may feel pressure to have our child read to us because they need to practice. However, reading out loud to your child is critical and it is important to not abandon it. If you and your child wish to, try popcorn reading. This is where you take turns reading a page, sentence or even pointing out one word here and there that they know. If your child is reluctant to do this, don’t force it. Remember to keep this one on one reading time a positive experience.

In recent years, an influx of graphic novels has brought new and traditional stories to light in a novel yet classic art form. The parts of the story that are told in pictures, allows the child to know a lot before they even try to read a word. Looking at a picture is like looking at the world--we can interpret it naturally. Reading on the other hand is a completely learned and unnatural skill and can be very hard for some to master. Make these available to your child as a read aloud or for them to read on their own. This is also an excellent way to help your child feel connected to their peers since these are so popular. To find out more, check out this article from Reading Rockets:

When it is time for them to read assignments for school, be supportive and non-judgmental. For a fidgety or distracted child, feel free to start reading the first sentence to pull them in. Or read aloud to struggling readers because learning the content in science and social studies is the point of the assignment.

When a child is reading, there may be more going on in their head then just trying to figure out the words. They might be anxious or experiencing negative self-talk, i.e. this is too hard, I never get this right, or I feel stupid. Break through this with stepping in to guide them through. Avoid saying come on, you know this; you read this yesterday; or you should know this. Instead, give subtle praise throughout or at the end like I noticed that you sounded out the tricky words, you really stuck to it-that’s great, you were very focused, or great job, I really enjoyed listening to you!

The latest in the science of reading stresses phonics and sounding out words. Many teachers explicitly teach students how to read; ask your child what strategies their teacher has taught them or ask their teacher for these methods since it is best to mirror what is done in school. Then when they get stuck on a word, you can gently remind them to try an already familiar strategy, and its okay to say the word for them--really its okay!

Many parents are overwhelmed with how to help their child read at home. I recommend that you do what you know first. If all you can do is read aloud to your child, then do that and know that you are helping now, and you are building their love for reading that will last a lifetime. You are also building the language and vocabulary that they need for reading comprehension. A great way to bolster reading comprehension is to talk about what you are reading before, during, and after. Make a prediction based on the book's cover, and make comments on things that you connect to while you are reading. And after, tell them what you liked, noticed, and learned from the book, and then ask them the same.

Thank you for exploring how to get your striving reader to positively engage with books. To receive links to future blog-posts and resources, please sign up for my occasional newsletter at


Nancy Roop creates chapter books with embedded comprehension strategies, so readers learn how to extract meaning from books. These developmental books look like traditional books, but are sensory-friendly, model social connections, and support self-regulation. The Big Aquarium Adventure is available at major online retailers. She has a BA in Integrative Studies from Oakland University and is also a speaker, publisher, and Special Education Substitute Teacher. Her thesis, Developmental Texts for Students with Autism; A Safe Space in the Written World, is available at

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