Building Confidence In The Struggling Reader


Hi everyone! Emily here, from The Reading Tutor/OG. I'm excited to share with you in this brand new year! Today, I'm going to open a discussion. Many of us work with challenged or struggling readers every day. As a classroom teacher, you recognize how vital it is to reach out and help these students not only experience success, but to develop a love of reading.

I work specifically with struggling readers and the challenge for them to gain success is ever present. Reading the written word is a constant reminder of their struggle. And yet they keep on keepin' on. When a lesson is especially tough or you've been working with this child or group on a strategy or skill for what may seem like forever, what pushes them to remain steadfast? What keeps them encouraged and confident?

I've surveyed a group of teachers and teacher bloggers, asking them to share some of their advice. They came up with some great suggestions! At the end of this post, please comment with any ideas you may have. Thank you!

~Ways To Build Confidence~
  1. Nicole: "Small realistic measurable goals. Keep a graph and celebrate growth . We have a wall of earn an index card brick upon making a goal. They also wear a lanyard for the day that has a sign saying "I met goal! ASK ME ABOUT IT! ". Staff and students ask and they are happy to talk about their success."
  2. Michelle: "Students are responsible for completing a reading response journal entry each week. I praise well written entries and the student has the option of reading them aloud to the class. Praise goes a long way and often my strugglers have excellent examples to share with the class."
  3. Zanah: "I have done reader's theatre to build the confidence of my struggling readers. They love to put on the play for their friends. I can see a big difference in them after they have a part in the play. We do 1-2 every quarter."
  4. Meg: "Personal shopper" experiences...I make "dates" with kids to go to the library for one on one shopping. They love it. I really think that when they read just right books and learn to love reading, so much takes care of itself. I also really try to touch base with them daily as to their nighttime reading, ask them about their books, etc--make that personal connection to show them that I care about their reading...and it usually rubs off on them. I also like to send happy emails/notes home when they finish books or do great things--because families can be HUGE players in this--helpful or NOT helpful!
  5. Brian: "Every year I have at least 6 students who are at least one-two levels below grade level. Many of these students come from homes that do not have a lot of books in them. When I send book orders home, I talk with those children individually and ask them what books they like. Then I purchase them, and set them aside for those students."
  6. Debbie: "I have my struggling readers read to students in lower grades. We go to the library and pick out books that the "younger students" would like….and they also happen to be books that the struggling readers will be able to read more easily. The younger kids are so excited to hear stories from the "big kids" and my struggling readers feel like super stars!"
  7. Lauren: "Selecting books that are at their easy level once a week, selecting books for small group that you know they are interested in and asking students for their choices, allowing choice in take-home books, stickers for first graders, genuine praise and lots of it, happy notes to the classroom teacher and to parents, doing cheers like a round of applause for each other, wearing a "reading expert" hat back to the classroom after reading group, reviewing their reader's log to see how much they have read, reviewing goals and celebrating when they accomplish them, inviting the principal in to observe and to praise and encourage. Just a few I can think of off the top of my head."
  8. Deniece: "A teachers can be a great encourager. Tracking fluency growth in second grade and up helps show progress."
  9. Stacy: "They also love to read to younger students. So, pairing with a younger book buddy."
  10. Carla: "I think one way to build confidence is to find work that is done well from the children to highlight. I agree with Stacy on pairing with younger readers. Reading to a furry friend is a fun way to ease anxiety and improve fluency. We have a therapy dog visit once a week."
  11. Jenny: "Letting them go back to a book from the beginning of the year, and seeing how much easier it is. It's especially powerful to record their reading and let them hear the difference.  I also have them graph their progress- fluency, sight words, level, etc. You do have to be careful about that with fluency (progress but not speed reading!) but some way of seeing growth is so important."
  12. Melissa: "I tell my students to "kiss their brains" when they've done amazing work."
  13. Amanda: "I have a "CHEER" box... when my students do something great we pull a popsicle stick with the name if a cheer or chant... we do it together. It is a great way to bring large muscles into it."
  14. Emily: "I believe, encouragement, praise, enthusiasm, positivity, and trusted patience will help a teacher cross the bridge to any struggling reader." Taking the time to listen, find out their interests, what makes them uncomfortable about reading, and building a strong parental line communication is key. 
Thank your for visiting Literacy Land today. I want to extend a special thank you to all my teacher blogger friends for providing me with  their wonderful suggestions. This post was truly a team effort. Have a great weekend. I'm looking forward to reading your comments!


  1. Praise their effort, even if they don't meet the goal or struggle with a text. Let them take home books they've mastered to show-off. Working on Raz kids during independent reading has been motivational for some of my kids this year.
    Not very fancy

  2. Games, task cards, and hands-on activities go a long way to keepi students engaged. I make games with their interests, skills and needs in mind. They really get into helping me design them. I often let them borrow the games for indoor recess and eventually would like to be able to check them out for at home use.

    Ms. Ds Literacy Lab