Students who struggle with reading often fail in other areas, as well. This is especially true in the higher grades when most material covered involves significant amounts of reading and private research. Reading support teachers provide extra assistance for students struggling with reading skills and comprehension. Becoming an effective reading support teacher requires a thorough understanding of various learning styles, grade-level expectations, clear documentation, a love of literacy and patience.
Learn about learning styles
Understanding various learning styles can help reading support teachers be more effective. Skilled teachers attend a wide variety of classes to learn about child development, current brain research, disabilities, and how children learn. The more a reading support teacher knows about how children learn and express themselves, the more effective they can be at helping overcome reading difficulties and make the most of various learning styles. For example, where visual learners prefer books with maps and diagrams, kinesthetic learners become more engaged with pop-up books. Selecting texts that appeal to each student makes improving their reading skills and comprehension more productive.
Identify grade-level expectations
By the time most students seek out or are assigned to a reading support teacher, most struggling students have fallen behind in several academic areas and lost self-confidence. The reading support teacher should have a thorough understanding of each student’s grade level expectations and standards of learning to create useful goals.
Document student interactions
The reading support teacher can boost their effectiveness by maintaining clear documentation on each student. This documentation should include inputs from teachers and parents, areas that need further support and a journal of skills covered and works read. Reading support teachers should have students read aloud at each session to help identify and note areas of difficulty. This documentation provides clear evidence of improvement for both student and teacher.
Share your love of literacy
Bringing a love of literacy to reading support sessions helps students to regain or discover their own love of reading. Reading support teachers who are knowledgeable about children’s literature and age-appropriate nonfiction can better select books, stories and other written works that will interest, support and challenge their students. For example, many young boys balk at reading, as it requires them to sit still. This barrier can be reduced by choosing books from the Choose Your Own Adventure series, in which readers select from various courses of action for the main character. In the same way, talented reading support teachers should learn enough about their students to know what their interests are. A baseball fan will be far more interested in reading a poem about the day Casey struck out than one about whales or ballerinas.
Struggling students are commonly resentful, discouraged or ashamed. There may be extenuating circumstances, such as difficulties at home, that can make reading improvements difficult. These students need patience, guidance and encouragement above all else. Take the time to hear what each student has to say, learn about their interests and provide them with a safe haven where they can develop the reading skills they need to succeed at school.
Learn about how children learn, clarify grade-level expectations and document interactions clearly to be an effective reading support teacher as you share your love of reading and provide much needed encouragement and direction to help students learn to love to read.