Portrait of a Struggling Reader: Molly

Portrait of a Struggling Reader: Molly

Molly's father, John, was at his wit's end. Molly's teacher had sent home a note saying that Molly was misbehaving during reading time — and frankly, John wasn't surprised. He'd fought enough battles with Molly at home to know that she would do anything she could to get out of having to read.

At first, John hadn't been too concerned. After all, kids will be kids, and he understood not wanting to do homework — after all, John didn't like bringing his work home either.

But Molly's teacher wrote a comment on her report card two weeks earlier that Molly wasn't making enough progress in reading and she needed more practice at home. The problem was, when Molly was supposed to be reading in her room, more often than not, she was making towers and ramps with the books instead.

Right after the report card came home, John tried out a reward system to get her reading — every time Molly read five books, he took her out to McDonald's, her favorite place to eat. However, she quickly started choosing from her infant brother's board book collection (the one about shapes only had five words in it total!) in order to read through five books quickly. This was not exactly what John had in mind!

Then he tried withholding television until Molly read a book each afternoon after school. But Molly put up such a fuss that this quickly became a miserable hour-long daily ritual, usually ending in frustration when John had to give up and make the kids dinner.

And now she was giving her teacher a hard time! John thought about getting Molly a tutor, but he didn't really know if it would help. What would help, he wondered?

What is Molly struggling with?

Molly's primary struggle is with motivation.

Motivation means maintaining a desire and interest in reading.

Molly sees reading as a chore to do — or rather, a chore to avoid doing at all costs! She used to like reading with her father, but John doesn't read to her or with her anymore because he thinks that she's too old now. Reading used to be a chance for Molly to spend time with her father, but now reading means being lonely and bored in her room.

Difficulties with motivation often begin as difficulties in other areas. For example, if a child is reading books that are always too difficult for him, reading won't be a rewarding experience. However, in Molly's case, her lack of motivation could cause difficulties in other areas — she didn't do as well on her report card because she hadn't gotten enough reading practice.

John is right to get involved, but rather than policing Molly's reading, he can be helping her choose books that will pique her interests, and he can share reading with her again by reading with Molly and talking about what they're reading.

When children struggle with motivation, they often benefit from instruction in choosing books that are both engaging and appropriate and setting purposes for reading (for example, to get information on a particular topic). Student choice in reading material is extremely important. Children who struggle with motivation can benefit from social interactions about text (such as peer book discussions) and learning experiences that relate to particular texts (such as using "how to" books to perform a task).

Read more about this area of difficulty and how to help children who struggle with motivation: Topics A-Z: Motivation.

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Learn about these other struggling readers: Felicia | Charlie | Aaron | 


Reading 101 is a collaboration with the Center for Effective Reading Instruction and The International Dyslexia Association.

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." — Groucho Marx