If a family member or a friend of any age is a non-reader or has been diagnosed by an expert as having dyslexia or significant reading problems, odds are most of us won’t have any clear idea of how to help that person. But a good friend or loved one is worthy of our stepping up to assist in whatever way we can.
Here are two simple things that anyone can do that will make a contribution to the literate life of any person of any age for whom literacy is a struggle.
- Read aloud for them.
Read whatever material they choose from which they wish to gain some understanding or enjoyment, but would find it a struggle to read alone. Encourage them to select something—anything—they would like to understand and appreciate. Joyfully read it fluently and expressively for them.They might wish to follow along in the text with you. That would be lovely. Or they might just wish to close their eyes and enjoy the read-aloud.
Then, after each section of the material …
- Engage them in enjoyable conversation about what has been read.
I don’t mean any kind of school-ish quizzing or comprehension check to determine whether they got or understood the reading material in some academic way. I mean just have a casual sharing of both of your impressions of the material’s personal value or impact. Ask what has been gained thanks to your contribution of literacy and time. If you both find the shared passage to be dull, or incomprehensible, simply invite your reading partner to make another selection.
All the while, take the time to explain anything you think or do in your effortless reading to help your friend or loved one more fully understand your reading process.
Most importantly, each such read-aloud should be enjoyable, valuable to the one to who you are reading and all the better if you find benefit in the reading yourself.
For struggling readers, the result of every shared read aloud will lend incrementally enriched insights into the processes and benefits of producing fulfilling language, cued by the text, that they typically find challenging and a further deposit of emotional goodwill between you.
So the ways to help anyone struggling to read are simple: read aloud together and talk about what you read. It’s a win-win for everyone.