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Sunshine Books – Teaching the World to Read

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Understanding the challenges and terrain faced by older children who are struggling readers

One of the most challenging obstacles faced by older struggling readers is the heightened self-awareness that accompanies their difficulties. This self-awareness often manifests as poor self-esteem, shame, embarrassment, and frustration, especially when juxtaposed with their peers’ literacy abilities. To effectively support these students, educators must acknowledge and address these emotional barriers alongside their academic challenges. Through personalised and targeted instruction, students can bridge the gap on their literacy journey.

Identifying the Common Areas of Difficulty:

According to the body of research examined by Kilpatrick, 2015, the best reading remediation involves three essential elements;

  1. Advanced phonemic awareness training (deletion, substitution, and manipulation)
  2. Phonics instruction and reinforcement
  3. Authentic reading opportunities reading connected text

Phonemic Awareness: Older struggling readers lack the foundational skill of phonemic awareness, hindering their ability to recognise and manipulate individual sounds in spoken language (phonemes). Without this fundamental skill, decoding and encoding written language become arduous tasks.

Grapheme-Phoneme Knowledge: Quick and efficient recall of grapheme-phoneme correspondences is essential for fluent reading. However, many struggling readers face difficulties in swiftly connecting letters to their corresponding sounds, slowing down their reading process.

Decoding and Encoding: Difficulty in translating print to speech (decoding) and speech to print (encoding) further compounds the challenges faced by older struggling readers. Without mastery in these areas, reading fluency is compromised, leading to added complexities in comprehension and motivation (Jan Hasbrouck, 2024).

Limited Language Background Knowledge: A lack of exposure to diverse language experiences contributes to lower reading comprehension levels among struggling readers. Building background knowledge is essential for understanding complex texts and making meaning from written material.

Vocabulary Deficits: A limited lexicon of language vocabulary impedes both reading comprehension and expression. Without a robust vocabulary base, students struggle to understand and convey complex ideas effectively.

Limited Exposure and Motivation: Older struggling readers often exhibit limited interest and motivation in books and print material. This lack of engagement can further exacerbate their literacy difficulties, creating a cycle of disinterest and underachievement.

Navigating the Path Forward: Strategies for Empowering Children who are Older Struggling Readers

In our journey to empower older struggling readers, it is imperative to adopt evidence-based, explicit, and systematic instructional approaches. Here are some actionable strategies for educators:

Structured Phonics Instruction: Provide explicit instruction in phonics, focusing on letter-sound correspondences and phonemic awareness activities to strengthen foundational skills. Teachers need to balance the student’s instruction with age appropriateness. As students are older, the gaps in learning can be efficiently and quicky filled, facilitating learning to more complex multisyllabic words, sentences, and text level.

Multi-Sensory Learning: Incorporate multi-sensory techniques such as visual aids, sticky note reminders, auditory cues, planners, and kinaesthetic activities to reinforce learning and enhance orthographic mapping and memory retention of phonics concepts.

Individualised Support: Recognise the diverse learning needs of older struggling readers and tailor instruction to address their specific challenges. Personalised interventions can effectively target areas of difficulty and accelerate progress.

Building Background Knowledge: Foster a rich language environment by exposing students to diverse texts, discussions, and experiences that expand their vocabulary and deepen their understanding of the world around them.

Promoting Reading Engagement: Cultivate a culture of reading by providing access to engaging and age-appropriate materials, fostering a love for literature, and celebrating students’ reading achievements. Students can engage with controlled decodable texts to consolidate the alphabetic code that allow for practice and rehearsal to ultimately mastering the code.

Sunshine Reading Road

The 20 titles of Sunshine’s Reading Road Series 1 and 2 cater for the older primary school reader who is mastering the simple and complex code. The 30 titles in soon-to-be-released Reading Road 3, 4 and 5 allow for consolidation of alternate phoneme spellings. The Sunshine Books Scope and Sequence for the Reading Road series can be viewed HERE.

Blockbusters! – Reading Road 3

Living room beach – Reading Road 4

Food flukes – Reading Road 5

Professional Development: Equip educators with the knowledge and skills necessary to deliver evidence-based literacy instruction effectively. Ongoing professional development ensures that teachers are adept at addressing the diverse needs of their students.

Embarking on the journey together requires resilience and a high level of determination. In summary, key strategies include:

  • A personalised literacy learning plan
  • Systematic, cumulative, structured, and explicit instruction
  • A holistic approach to engaging the student
  • A sensitivity to scaffolding learning at opportune timing
  • Appropriate school and home reading resources
  • Developing a level of trust with sincere celebration of the wins to motivate and keep student engagement buoyant.

Empowering older struggling readers requires a collective effort fuelled by knowledge, empathy, and dedication. As educators, we have the power to transform the trajectory of our students’ literacy journeys, guiding them toward the shores of proficiency and empowerment.

Beata Goldman – Sunshine Books Literacy Specialist

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