16 Tips for Encouraging a Struggling Reader Who Is Blind or  Low Vision

Maybe you, too, have a struggling reader who panics when it’s time to read aloud at school or home. Perhaps your child has labeled themself a poor reader or student and is discouraged.  

It’s important to address these concerns with your child’s educational team to identify the issues at hand and come up with a plan for specialized instruction and/or accommodations. 

For instance, many teenagers with low vision have not received braille instruction. Reading with their eyes may be laborious, visually straining, and slow. Learning to read braille may be the clear direction forward.  

For others, dyslexia is the issue. In this case, extensive phonics (an Orton-Gillingham program), in addition to braille, is usually the path forward. 

Beyond academic support, consider how you can create a literacy-rich and literacy-positive home environment.  

When Choosing Books 

  • Research the best series for struggling readers. Read the first in the series to them; if they want more, provide them with the second book in print or braille (likely utilizing a refreshable braille display).  
  • You may want to choose a book on a topic they’re familiar with. This way they can focus on decoding instead of understanding the concepts. 
  • Encourage them to re-read a favorite book. This can help them build fluency.  
  • Let their interests lead the way! 

Before Beginning a Book 

  • Give your child experiences with the subjects and settings in a book they’re reading, if possible. For example, if they’re reading a story taking place in the forest, take a day trip to explore the woods. Understanding the concepts and vocabulary found in the book will help with comprehension. 
  • If you’re asking your child to read, make sure it’s at a time when they’re not under additional stress, tired, or hungry.  

As Your Child is Reading 

  • If your child is reading an e-book, borrow the print copy from the library and describe any pictures to them.  
  • Consider looking ahead a few pages or chapters and discussing concepts or words your child hasn’t encountered. If your child finds this frustrating, refrain. 
  • If it isn’t an official reading or phonics lesson, don’t ask your child to sound out a word they’re struggling with. Tell them how it’s pronounced. Later, let them overhear you receiving help on word pronunciation so they understand we all need support.  

To Increase Practice 

  • Have your struggling reader read a book below their reading level. If they don’t want to read “a baby book”, they can read it to a younger family member. This can help them gain confidence and fluency. 
  • They can read to a pet.  
  • Ask them if they’d like to read to a family member (bonus points for an easy-going grandparent) over Zoom. My daughter’s fluency increased when she read to my mom over Zoom four days a week for a month.  
  • Encourage them to start a book club—this can even be a virtual book club with others who struggle with reading. {Ahem, can my daughter join?!} They can read books on their own and discuss them together. 
  • Have non-traditional reading material such as magazines, cookbooks, joke books, and instructions. 
  • Make reading practice a social event—encourage letter or email correspondence to family and friends.  

Perhaps most important: Read aloud to your child and make sure they have access to quality, age-appropriate audiobooks. Let them keep their hands busy tinkering or creating while they listen. This way they can access and enjoy books beyond their reading level. They’ll continue to be exposed to rich vocabulary and sentence structure, and their love of stories and books can develop at a rate independent of their reading ability.  

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