Did you know that learning to read is a challenge for almost 40 percent of kids? There are only just a few students who do not have some type of short coming when it comes to reading. Looking at National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores only one third of students read at the proficient or advanced levels. One third read at a basic level and the last one third are reading below that basic level. (1)
Who are at risk readers?
There are students that are labeled as “at risk,” these students show high risk of being a struggling reader or having reading disabilities. Being at risk does not mean that the child is doomed to be a poor reader, but it does tell us that he or she may need close monitoring and intervention to prevent those reading difficulties. (2) There are many different warning signs and characteristics of an at risk student. Most of these characteristics are the kind of personality they have and the reading skills they do or do not have. These students are reluctant to participate in any type of reading activities and do not see the value of being able to read. Struggling readers make many errors and do not focus on the actual words as much as trying to figure out the story from the pictures they see or from what words they can read. They do this to hide the fact that they cannot read. A negative attitude about reading and toward themselves is normally very present in at risk readers. The students avoid reading as much as possible and when they are reading they give up much easier than other students. If there is any child that has a good amount of these characteristics they are most likely struggling at reading and reading activities. (3)
There are some things that happen in today’s education that do not help struggling readers as much as we think they do. Schools spend a lot of time and money on different things that just are not really helping the students as much as they should. For the majority, the at risk readers do not get the attention they need or the quality of attention they need.
Many schools use paraprofessionals to work with the struggling students. These teachers are not trained as much or to the degree that the actual teacher of the classroom is, causing them to not know as much about how to instruct those students that are not going along with the rest of the class. Educational Leadership says, “Although paraprofessionals certainly do provide some benefits, they don't provide high-quality reading lessons to struggling readers. That is, paraprofessional assistance never accelerates reading progress enough to remove the struggling-reader label. Working with a paraprofessional may add two months growth in reading for a struggling reader, but that reader needs 10–15 months additional growth to be reading on level with his or her peers.”
Some school systems also use computer-based programs to help students grow as readers. After federal studies were made it was found that the computer-based programs do not work to help students with their reading as much as direct instruction from their teachers. These findings have made these expensive programs to be found less in schools.
Also there are core reading programs that are sort of a one-size fits all approach to reading. Students need individualized reading instruction to truly benefit from anything. If they are reading something to hard they will give up and if they are reading something too easy they will not have to work for what they are doing. The large group type of instruction is beneficial for the students that are matched up to the level you are teaching at but it hinders the high ability and low ability learners. (1)
Motivating the students
When working with at risk readers or struggling readers there are many things that teachers and parents can do but the most important one is to motivate the students to want to read and want to learn. At risk students are found to...