Supporting the Struggling Reader: Reflections of Learning
by Chase Young

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Supporting the struggling reader should be a skill that is researched based, internalized, and implemented within the instructional day. Every student has a right to equal access to the curriculum and to a quality education (Gordon, 2002). It is the responsibility for educators to develop their skills to meet the needs of all students by utilizing every means necessary such as appropriate instructional strategies and support resources (Laureate Education, 2002).
During the course, Supporting the Struggling Reader, many strategies have been explained and made applicable that every teacher should ascribe. First, understanding the various reasons for a student to struggle with reading such as limited English proficiency, family history, mental causes such as ADD, motivation, and poverty. The most important factor to consider, however, is the expertise in the instruction provided to the student (Strickland, Ganske, & Monroe, 2002). 
Throughout the course expert instruction has been discussed on many different levels. The most valuable lesson learned was in the area of motivation. Regardless of effective strategies and assessment, students must be motivated to read. Motivation is destructive; especially when dealing with a struggling reader. Noting the phrase, “the more you read, the better you get”, the deficiencies begin to shift their weight to motivation. In order to do this, the teacher must take crucial steps in building an environment to foster reading motivation. On the foundational level, classroom libraries should be overflowing with books that contain rich and elaborate texts. They should be of varying genres and cater to countless interests. There should be plenty of easier books, as they often the least accessible in elementary classrooms. Teachers should have all levels of reading material, but should never forget to stockpile the easier books (Allington & Cunningham, 2007). 
Furthermore, motivation was deeply, but simply explained by the three principles of engagement. Students should be offered choice. Teachers have a magnificent gift in reading rooms by having the opportunity to offer choice. Because of this, libraries should be well organized, and contain many choices as discussed before. In addition to this, a smattering of books should be “blessed” daily to motivate the students. The second principle insists that students have an opportunity to talk about books—not explicit drilling of questions, but an authentic opportunity to discuss their reading. Finally, students need to be rewarded with reading. It makes perfect sense, however to date this has not been the case. Whether it is buddy reading, a new book, or extra reading time, students should be rewarded with reading to instill the value of books and the opportunity to read deep within the students’ minds (Laureate Education, 2002).  Motivation is a key foundation to any reader, but priceless to that of a struggling reader. 
As the primary provider of reading instruction, it is necessary to not only motivate your students to read, but to provide expert instruction to whole groups, small groups, and one on one. Each aspect of reading needs to be modeled and explicitly taught to mastery. Student should understand everything from text structure (formal schemata) to making educated inferences (abstract schemata) based on prior knowledge (content schemata) in order to help readers comprehend text (Erten & Karakas, 2007). Comprehension strategies need to be modeled constantly to make an expert reader’s thinking transparent, so students can mimic good reading behaviors. Guidelines for this type of instruction should utilize a variety of easy books in order to scaffold strategies to apply in their daily reading. At times, struggling readers will require an adjustment in intensity and duration of instruction (Laureate Education, 2002). 
Luckily, being a primary provider of instruction does not automatically isolate a teacher from other resources. In fact, it is necessary to utilize all resources available including the parents and support specialists. Although these avenues are often used, they may not be being used effectively. It is important for the teacher to partner in education with the parents. Many parents want to help their students, but lack the knowledge to do so. It is the teacher’s responsibility to educate the parent in the best ways to support their young reader. In addition to a close working relationship with the parent, the literacy specialist should also be a collaborative partner with aligned plans and weekly meetings to discussed progress and next steps (Laureate Education, 2002). 
Possessing the knowledge and having applicable strategies will certainly boost the confidence and increase the “expertness” of a classroom teacher. Empathizing with struggling readers, motivating them, and providing them with expert instruction is a right provided by the public education system. Not all students are receiving, but through more professional growth, the less struggling readers will be left behind. The element of thoughtful literacy needs to be introduced to each classroom to ensure success in a continuous trend of of increased standards and high-stakes assessments (Laureate Education, 2002).


Cunningham, P. M., & Allington, R. L. (2007). Classrooms that work: They can all read and write (4th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Erten, I. & Karakas, M. (2007, December). Understanding the Divergent Reading Activities on the Comprehension of Short Stories. Reading Matrix: An International Online Journal, 7, 113-133.

Gordon, D. T. (2002, January/February). Curriculum access in the digital age [Electronic version]. Harvard Education Letter, 18(1), 1–5.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2002). Supporting the Struggling Reader. [Video Recording]. Baltimore: Author. 

Strickland, D. S., Ganske, K., & Monroe, J. K. (2002). Supporting struggling readers and writers: Strategies for classroom intervention 3–6. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

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