By David Munro MSped MEd RCC: Dynaread Learning Disabilities Specialist and Clinical Counsellor
When children have difficulty achieving sufficient success at learning to read, how do we as parents and teachers help them recapture the motivation to persevere?
For many years, I struggled at mathematics even though my father was a math teacher. For some reason, I didn't believe that I was "good" at math. When presented with my math homework, I would do anything in my power to avoid the task. Why would I want to waste my time attempting to do something that I "knew" I would fail? I became highly adept at tuning out my father's expert teaching, thinking that it was pointless to listen as I would inevitably fail. In a nutshell, I had very little belief in my self-efficacy (i.e. I did not believe that I could be successful in math). This directly influenced the amount of effort I put into my math studies. Years later, when confronted with math at University, I found that with effort I was able to achieve moderate success in the subject. With this new and contradictory evidence, I was able to change my view on my abilities regarding Math. From then on, when faced with mathematical tasks, I would no longer think, "I can't do this." Instead, I would think, "I can do this; however, it will require some effort to achieve positive results."
Failure in the present does not have to predict a future of continuous failure. However, if we never achieve success, how can we find the motivation to persevere?
In order to foster self-efficacy at school, classwork should be at a level that is neither too challenging nor too easy for students. What does this mean for struggling readers? Research suggest that students should be able to read aloud 90 to 95% of words in a passage and understand 70 to 89% of the text. This is why Dynaread uses the Check module to ascertain that the student possesses sufficient levels of fluency and accuracy at the individual word level before introducing the Reader. Reading a word individually is more difficult than reading the same word in context and in its syntactically correct place in a sentence. To evidence this, we recommend you read and experience this short article: https://www.dynaread.com/fast-and-slow-route-reading-systems.
At home, it is important to pay attention to your child's frustration level. Avoid having him or her continue working on tasks if they are causing anxiety or frustration. When a task is too demanding, either reduce its complexity or the amount of time spent working on it. Once students begin achieving results and their effort has been rewarded, it is important to provide them with slightly more challenging tasks. Don't forget positive feedback as well. This will serve to prevent boredom and boost self-confidence.
At Dynaread, we recognize the importance of the students' thoughts and feelings, as well as their behaviour when learning. We know that struggling readers, who repeatedly fail to achieve success, will begin to think that they are not capable of reading. As a result, they may avoid reading, and we may never tap into their true potential.
Dynaread's structured approach provides students with the opportunity to achieve success. Following repeated successes, students will gradually recover their motivation and develop a renewed sense of optimism. Of course this will not happen overnight. There are other factors to consider (e.g. parental support, a full understanding of dyslexia, and a supportive teacher) which will contribute to boosting self-efficacy in our students.
Keywords: self-efficacy, struggling readers, dyslexia
Margolis, H., & McCabe, P. P. (2004). Self-efficacy: A key to improving the motivation of struggling learners. The Clearing House, 77(6), 241-249.
Dynaread does not have permission to publish this research paper.
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Dynaread has been developed in the trenches of actual remediation, with our feet firmly planted on the ground. Scientific research is essential (and we consistently use it), but we also understand the realities at home and in school. Not all homes have two parents, not all Dad's or Mom's are always home, there is oftentimes no money, schools lack staff or funding. We listen, we observe, we discuss, and we build the best solutions we can for older (ages 7+) struggling readers.