Dear Dr. Shore,
I have a child in my fifth-grade class who has a reading disability. What can I do to help him feel better about reading?
Have a wide range of reading materials in your classroom. Establish a classroom library with a range of materials at different reading levels and on various subjects, including fiction and non-fiction books, magazines, tapes of books, and even catalogs. Establish a reading corner with a rocking chair or beanbag chair.
Give the student material he can read successfully. The key to preventing your student from being turned off to reading is to tailor instruction -- and reading materials -- to his reading development rather than to his chronological development. Find materials he can read comfortably. As a general rule, a student should be able to read, with relative ease, at least 90 percent of the words for a book to be at a comfortable reading level. If he is struggling to decode many words, he will become frustrated quickly and might resort to guessing.
Use reading materials that relate to his interests or experiences. Giving a student materials he can read is not enough, however; it's also important to give him materials he wants to read. Supplement basal readers with children's classics or current children's books of high quality. Suggest books or stories that tap his interests or are personally meaningful. Ask the school librarian to find high-interest, low-level materials so he can read comfortably in his areas of interest. An older student might respond positively to reading the newspaper or materials that are useful to him (for example, a driver's manual or Boy Scout handbook).
Arrange for the student to read to younger children. This is a valuable way of enhancing his self-confidence. It also provides a reason for him to read books that are below his grade level, but appropriate for his reading level.