Dyslexia makes reading hard. It just does. For many dyslexics this improves with time and practice but it is not uncommon for these difficulties to result in kids developing a strong dislike of reading. How can thoughtful parents nurture a love of reading while doing the hard work of teaching their dyslexic kids how to read?
Begin With Understanding
This is especially important for parents or teachers that are not themselves dyslexic. If you have never taken a dyslexia simulation I can’t recommend it enough. Take a dyslexia simulation here.
Think about how you have felt in your own life when doing something hard. Imagine having to do that task everyday. If we’re going to encourage a love of reading in our dyslexic kids, we need to start from a place of kindness and understanding.
One surefire way to encourage a love of reading is to first encourage a love for stories. If you haven’t already, make time daily to read out loud to your kids. Even our older kids who are in high school will sit and listen as we read good books aloud. Another option is to use audiobooks. For a list of audio recording resources, see our resources page.
What to do When Your Child Hates Reading
Find books of interest. By simple daily observation, you can start to pinpoint your child’s interests and choose reading materials that line up accordingly. If you are struggling to find books in your child’s areas of interest, ask your local librarian – they are amazing! Many dyslexics are tinkerers and builders. Consider subscribing to mechanical or computer magazines. Our kids love their subscription to Make magazine.
Practice ‘shared’ reading. Shared reading is simply sharing the task of reading. Sit with your child and take turns reading – either by paragraph or by page – what ever works for your child. This helps model fluency and keeps an easily discouraged reader from giving up too soon.
Let them choose. We all want our kids to read the classics but there is a place for fluff. The following list of books has been recommended for their high interest level versus reading skill needed. (All links to Amazon are affiliate links. This site earns a small percentage of anything you purchase through these links. There is no additional charge to you and all purchases are completely private. Thank you for supporting our site!)
- ‘Wolfman’ by Michael Rosen
This book is written in a special easy-to-read font, making it perfect for dyslexic children who struggle to distinguish certain letters. The fun, humorous story of the Wolfman — complete with a surprising twist — is great for children as young as 5.
- ‘The Invention of Hugo Cabret’ by Brian Selznick
This book is huge — 566 pages — and it may seem daunting to your reluctant reader at first. But its engaging story is told mostly through images that will grip your child from the very beginning. Part picture book, part in-depth novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a genre all its own, and your child will feel proud of himself when he makes it to the final page.
- ‘Squish’ by Jennifer and Matthew Holm
You may have heard of Babymouse, a popular series by the Holm brother and sister team. In Squish, the Holms have teamed up again to create the story of Squish, a Twinkie-loving amoeba just trying to make it through elementary school. The story is told simply, with short accessible sentences, readable dialogue, and plenty of pictures. Plus, your child will learn some science along the way — without feeling like they’re trapped in a boring lesson.
- ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ by Jeff Kinney
This one is a classic choice, and it’s for a reason. With simple comic book style illustrations, a down-to-earth writing style, and short chapters, Jeff Kinney’s popular graphic novels are accessible to children of any reading ability. Plus, three movies have already been made based off the books — giving your child a fun opportunity to compare and contrast after he finishes reading.
- ‘Brock’ by Anthony McGowan
This book is great for high school children who still struggle to read but have outgrown simple picture books. It’s published by Barrington Stoke, a company who edits and designs their books specifically to make them easier for dyslexic children to read. Brock has mature themes, but an engaging story — perfect for dyslexic children who are ready to move on to short novels.
Be sure they are reading at their level. While teaching reading skills needs to be at a level that is challenging, assigned reading or reading for pleasure needs to be fairly easy to be enjoyable. See this list of high interest – low readability books for ideas for your kids.
High interest/low reading level books can motivate struggling readers by providing books on topics that are really engaging that are also targeted toward their reading level. Hi-low books can help build reading fluency, vocabulary, background knowledge and interest in reading. Many Hi-Low books have the advantage of looking like chapter books and are written about interesting topics with easy readability.
What a great find these books have been for our family! Many companies offer Hi-Lo books for struggling readers.
Here are some of our favorites:
Great Illustrated Classics are just that. With large print, an illustration on every other page and excellent classic stories such as Treasure Island, Oliver Twist, Anne of Green Gables and Pride and Prejudice, our kids eat these books up. Written at approximately a 2-3rd grade level, they are excellent for both the young reader and the older struggling reader. Some of these are available on Kindle with Whispersync technology.
Similar to the Great Illustrated Classics. I look for all of these books at yard sales, used curriculum sales and thrift stores but they can be purchased fairly inexpensively in paperback via Amazon as well.
The website allows you to browse books by reading level or subject/genre. In addition, High Noon Books offers many resources for teaching kids with reading struggles.
Perfection Learning carries Hi/Low books and resources for teachers.
This list includes books that were written more recently such as Invention of Hugo Cabret and How to Train Your Dragon. A nice mix of fiction and non-fiction.
From the Capstone web site, “Dynamic, riveting action captivates the reluctant reader in these age-appropriate and illustrated tales. The high-interest topics offer an array of genres. Short chapters, smooth dialogue, and adrenaline-soaked subjects will help turn struggling skimmers into excited book lovers.” Reading Level: 2-3 Interest Level: 5-9
Short, high-interest novels with contemporary themes, written at the 2nd – 4th grade level, expressly for middle-school students.
High interest books written at between 2nd and 4th grade reading ability with an interest level geared for students 12 and up.
Many of these books can be found at your local library.
Like comic books, these books have lots of images and not so much text.
The Big Picture
Parents know their kids. Sometimes we need to just back off on things if the pressure is being perceived as too intense. Although it may seem counter intuitive to back off on reading when your child is ‘behind’, this can sometimes be the very thing they need. Let your kids know that you love them for who they are, not how well they perform. Take time to build your relationship, encourage a love of learning and eventually, they will be open to loving learning and reading.
For more resources on teaching a struggling reader:
- My Dyslexia board on Pinterest
- My Understanding Dyslexia Course
- My Teaching Reading board on Pinterest