Do you have fond memories of reading cute little board books to your children when they were just little toddlers? For children who struggle with reading, sometimes books can become a negative thing. It represents really hard work, or failure, or even embarrassment and shame. Not all children feel this way about books, but it certainly is an issue for some.

Regardless of whether your child thinks the work “book” is a scary word, it is important for them to still be exposed to age-level literature. Whether your child is working through a reading remediation program with a parent or tutor, or receiving support through school, the content is going to be at their expected reading level, and not their intellectual, comprehension, or interest level. Or, if they are given reading materials that are age-level, then they are likely struggling so much with the mechanics of reading that they are not getting anything out of the book – aside from a headache.

Why is it important for them to be exposed to age-level reading? Children who struggle with reading often fall behind on more than just the ability to read. Other areas that develop through reading will also start to lag. For example, if they are learning vocabulary by listening to conversations, either in-person or through television and movies, they will be exposed to an average of 5,000 words. When reading, depending on the text, one is exposed to an average of 10,000 to 35,000 words. You can see where one will fall short in vocabulary development if they do not read. This is not even touching on the more complex sentence structures, themes, ideas, and plots that a child sees in age-level books instead of reading-level books. Not to mention, how will a struggling reader develop a love of literature if they only read simplistic books about Spot, Dick, and Jane.

The solution is easier than you think. All you need to do is read books to your child that are at his or her listening comprehension level. Make sure you pick books that interest them, because you want this to be a positive experience. It will also help them fit in socially if they have read the same latest books as their peers. Don’t worry about your child looking at the words and reading along with you, this is not the time for that. They are not reading to learn how to decode words, they are reading with their ears to improve all the other areas that are developed by reading. All the right parts of their brain will still be activating.

Another tool that can help is audiobooks. Particularly if your child does not want you to read to him or her, or the timing is not convenient. The effect is the same, but the child has more autonomy and can read even if you aren’t available. Whether you are reading to your child, using audiobooks, or a going with a combination of both, you child will be learning so many important things that struggling readers often lack.

While there are many sources for audiobooks, you can download audiobooks on your computer or smart devices for free from your public library using the website or app called Overdrive. For example, the Ottawa Public Library currently has 1,600 audiobooks for download for juvenile audiences, 1,300 for young adults, and a total of just under 8,000 audiobooks for all audiences. Audiobooks are great, but as a last note, if your child will actually allow you to snuggle up and read a book with them, then enjoy it for as long as possible!

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