Tips for Teachers and Parents of “Falling” Readers

Part one in a two-part series by Dr. Connie H. Hebert

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3186311_blogMany of us teach or live with children who struggle with learning to read, write and think. A “falling” reader is a student who is not reading ON or ABOVE grade level, as defined by text readability levels. The first and most important thing we can do for any struggling reader is to help them feel successful. Don Holdaway, founder of the big book and the practice of shared reading said, “If children could work on literature tasks most of the time, at a level of success, we would have solved the biggest problem in learning to read and write.” It is essential that we provide opportunities for falling readers to experience immediate and consistent success. There is no time to lose if we expect them to become proficient, independent readers.

What are some ways we can create success for readers who struggle?

  • Back struggling readers to easier text levels where they feel successful and motivated. They need to read lots and lots of books at independent levels.
  • Find a genre that “hooks” the student, such as fiction, non-fiction, newspapers, cookbooks, comic books, manuals, catalogs, menus, maps, dictionaries, driver’s education manuals, SAT practice books, etc. Structure a schedule that provides the child with DAILY opportunities to sit down and read without spending any time searching for something to read. They must read to get better at reading!
  • Create frequent opportunities for falling readers to read to others: younger students, former teachers, the school principal, Grandparents, family members, etc.
  • Flash sight phrases as opposed to isolated sight words in order to increase fluency, meaning, vocabulary, visual tracking and sight word automaticity.
  • Provide audio-books for falling readers to listen and read along with, especially in the car.
  • Send home five to seven independent, motivating texts EVERY SINGLE NIGHT, and instruct the student to read at least four books to someone.

With daily opportunities to experience success, falling readers can be taught and caught. Let’s catch them ALL!

Dr. Hebert is an author, professor of reading and nationally acclaimed teacher of teachers. She has taught and inspired parents and teachers in 47 states and 3 countries and presented at many literacy conferences around the country such as IRA, NAESP, RRCNA, & MRA. Her internet radio show, Help Your Child Succeed: Ready, Set, Read can be heard every Sunday evening at 8:00 PM. For more information, please visit: or email her at



Filed under Academic Success, Reading

2 responses to “Tips for Teachers and Parents of “Falling” Readers

  1. Summer

    I had always heard that audio books are a great way to teach kids to learn to read, but it’s good to know kids still benefit after they are readers.

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