5 Ways to Help Struggling Readers With the Whole Student in Mind


Helping struggling readers is not just about improving their literacy skills, it also involves addressing their emotional, social, and cognitive needs. With a holistic approach to literacy instruction, educators can promote well-rounded development and improve reading outcomes. Here are five ways to support struggling readers with the whole student in mind.

1. Build a positive learning environment

To foster a positive learning environment, educators should provide ample encouragement and praise, set realistic goals, and create a safe space where students feel comfortable asking questions. Encouraging a growth mindset, where students recognize that their abilities can improve with effort, can be especially beneficial in promoting a love for reading.

2. Offer differentiated instruction

Differentiated instruction allows educators to cater to the unique learning needs of each student. This may involve varying the level of difficulty of reading materials or employing different teaching strategies such as guided reading groups, one-on-one tutoring sessions, or technology-based interventions. Differentiation acknowledges individual differences and fosters confidence in each learner’s ability to succeed.

3. Address underlying cognitive skills

Helping struggling readers may involve identifying and addressing any underlying cognitive weaknesses that might be contributing to their difficulties. Ensuring that students receive adequate practice and support with skills like phonemic awareness, working memory, and processing speed can greatly impact their overall reading success.

4. Incorporate social-emotional learning (SEL)

SEL enhances students’ capacity to understand and manage emotions, empathy for others, develop positive relationships, and deal effectively with challenges. By incorporating SEL into literacy instruction – such as discussing emotions expressed by characters in a story or having students share their feelings about a text – educators can create a more engaging and supportive learning experience for struggling readers.

5. Communicate and collaborate with parents

Establishing strong lines of communication with parents about their child’s progress and struggles is crucial for supporting the whole student. Collaborating with parents to provide tailored at-home reading activities, reinforcing positive reading habits, and sharing resources can empower parents to take an active role in their child’s literacy development.


Supporting struggling readers involves more than just improving their ability to decode text; it requires a holistic approach that addresses the whole student. By creating a positive learning environment, offering differentiated instruction, addressing cognitive skills, incorporating social-emotional learning, and working closely with parents, educators can nurture well-rounded students and pave the way for long-term reading success.

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