When we have a struggling reader in our family, every possibility of providing help and seeking assistance seems more grand and demanding. Is it dyslexia? Is there some visual or auditory processing disorder? Could it be some other unforeseen cognitive delay? When considering solutions for a problem we can’t quite comprehend, it’s easy to believe equally significant solutions are necessary.
Yet, there may be a simple step you can take to help any child move towards reading fluency and comprehension. If your reader suddenly hits the wall with reading, here is an easy way to help them overcome this barrier.
Sudden Struggles with Reading
Some students learn to read without difficulty, yet suddenly start to struggle with comprehension once they reach fourth or fifth grade.
One mom noted that her reluctant reader picked up The Thanksgiving Story and voluntarily read the whole thing. The mom noted that the “page, font, and line spacing is bigger than the average reader. Could that really make that big of a difference?”
The answer is: YES!
When some children begin to read books with smaller fonts and more words per page, their comprehension diminishes.
With a smaller font, these students have to work harder and harder to keep the print clear. Since they dedicate attention to keeping words in focus, they don’t have the attention to devote to thinking about what they’re reading. This struggle makes comprehension almost impossible.
So if you’ve ever wondered if your children were struggling because the font is too small: yes! That happens!
Support for a Student Who Is Struggling
We know that my son is dealing with visual tracking issues. We do his vision therapy faithfully, but he is not making quick progress.
What is interesting to me is that he worked through the early books of Happy Cheetah without any difficulty. Then his vision changed due to a growth spurt, and he slowed down. Once we got a diagnosis, he picked up again.
He is now approaching the final book, and the font size in his readers is a good bit smaller.
Unsurprisingly, he has slowed down with his reading again.
His slower progress makes sense since it’s hard to read when you can’t see the words clearly.
We live in a crazy era, though, with amazing technology. Dr. Karen says, “If a child is struggling with the font size, make the font size bigger.”
The Benefits of Assistive Technology
Yesterday, one of my sons showed me how to hit the home button on my iPhone three times to activate Zoom. (I am not at all techie, but apparently, you can hit the home button three times and then choose which thing you want your phone to do: VoiceOver, Invert Colors, Zoom, and Assistive Touch. I don’t even know what those other things are, but if you hit the Home button three times and it doesn’t zoom, I’m assuming it’s because you have one of those three things activated.)
When my son read the enlarged words on the iPhone screen, he made noticeably faster progress, with fewer errors.
I’m assuming this functionality is probably available to you with other phones or tablets. Maybe you would need to take a photo of the page and magnify it as you read.
If you have a child who has started to struggle, try this method, and see if their reading improves.
A Built-In Check
One of the things I appreciate about the Happy Cheetah Reading System is that parents don’t have to know in advance if their children have visual tracking issues.
As students work through the program and approach the final book, the font size shrinks enough so that if the student is struggling with visual tracking, it will become readily apparent.
Modern technology allows students to keep moving forward, even as they work with a pediatric optometrist to fix their visual tracking challenges.
Assistance with a Simple Solution
Our struggling readers need our help, and sometimes that assistance can be found in the simplest of solutions. Yes, we should seek out treatment to address any underlying issues, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help in the smaller ways as well.
Most children will struggle with reading smaller text at some point, so don’t hesitate to adjust the text size or find the large print section at the library. By giving them the tools to ready quickly and easily now, we’re allowing them the time needed to make those additional brain connections that will lead to greater fluency in the future.