Learning to read involves many skills that children must use simultaneously. This requires sustained effort by all students. However, children who suffer from learning disabilities may become frustrated when multiple attempts to read and comprehend fail. Since many classrooms will have one or more students with a specific disability, teachers should be familiar with alternative strategies to enable every student in their class to master reading skills.
Children with learning disabilities often have trouble associating letters and sounds. Before a child can begin to read, they must understand that each letter has a corresponding sound. Memorizing the alphabet is not enough. Teachers should work with children in small groups to practice this skill. Simple games like matching letter cards to objects that begin with that sound or playing alphabet bingo are effective for reinforcing alphabetic recognition, as well as remembering what sound each letter makes.
Once students learn how to blend sounds to make words, they begin reading grade-level texts. Children with learning disabilities may have to begin reading stories that are below their grade level so they can build fluency. Fluent readers decode (sound out) words quickly, read expressively and at a rate of speed that aids comprehension. Students who have trouble decoding need to practice by reading stories with simple C-V-C (consonant-vowel-consonant) words. The best strategy is to group the class by ability levels so that each child is reading with others of similar achievement.
Comprehending books and stories involves many strategies like predicting, summarizing, questioning and determining main idea. Good readers use these strategies as they read. Learning-disabled children will need reinforcement from the teacher to help them understand these concepts and apply them. First, the teacher should encourage them to look at the pictures in the book and make predictions based on what they see. Books geared toward older readers may not have stories with pictures, so the teacher can model how to read a page, then stop and ask themselves questions before they proceed. If appropriate, students can use a highlighter to denote main ideas and characters.
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