7 Strategies to Help Teenagers with Reading

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The ability to read well is one of the most critical factors in a teen’s success. Reading is a necessary skill in order to grasp almost any subject in school, and without this skill they are likely to fall severely behind.

Use the following techniques and exercises to help those students who are struggling with their reading comprehension.

Identify why they’re struggling

In order to help them overcome their reading barriers, it’s important to pinpoint where they are encountering difficulties. First, have your teen read aloud. Notice if they get stuck on certain words, such as words with multiple syllables.

If they can read aloud without a struggle, perhaps the issue lies in comprehension, understanding context, or concentration.

Help them decode the words

Decoding words means breaking them up into shorter, more understandable chunks. If they’re stumbling over multisyllabic words, such as fashionable, teach them to break the word down into individual syllables.

For example, misunderstanding would be pieced into five syllables: /mis/ /un/ /der/ /stand/ /ing/. Easily reading larger words begins with them sounding out and separating the words into smaller parts. Practice with a piece of text that includes a lot of multisyllabic words, or with a list of common multisyllabic words, e.g. personality, denominator, questionable, anniversary, etc.

Here you can find a helpful list of over 290 multisyllabic words for practice at home.

Clue them into the context

One of the keys to understanding what a word means is searching for context clues surrounding the word. E.g. ‘There was a big misunderstanding about which homework assignment to do. Some people did the assignment from page 8, while others did the assignment from page 9’.

Misunderstanding’ is the unknown word in this sentence. If we look at the context clues surrounding the word, we can see that not everybody did the same assignment. Therefore, we can guess that misunderstanding could relate to confusion.

Have them take notes

Notes are helpful for anyone struggling with comprehension and memory. Suggest that your teen record the main events or points of a story, and have them pause every couple of pages to summarise and review the story by re-telling it or writing it down.

If the text is educational, such as a textbook, taking notes will help them focus and process the information instead of allowing them to skim the material without absorbing it.

Frequent reviewing of what they’re reading, as well as taking notes, will help in comprehension and understanding.

Encourage concentration

Perhaps your teen is having trouble concentrating because what they’re reading while learning to read is just not interesting enough for them. If this is the case, then it helps to use materials that are relevant to their lives or that are exciting for them to learn about. E.g. if they’re into sports, have them hone their reading skills by using sports-related materials.

If the content is about a subject that engages them, they will be much more likely to concentrate on decoding the words and learning what they mean.

Invest in a professional tutor or reading program

We say hire a professional or invest in a reading program because having someone or a program with a proven track record of helping people improve their reading skills can save both you and your teen time and frustration. A professional tutor has experience in teaching others, and will know the most useful techniques for transforming your teen into a proficient reader. Look for someone who is part of a tutoring organisation, or a program that comes with endorsements and reviews.

The most important part of teaching your teen to read is to understand which learning strategies they benefit the most from, and tailoring their reading practice around those. Everyone learns in a slightly different way, so get creative and find out how your teen learns best.