Struggling or Emerging Readers

It is helpful for both struggling and emerging readers to participate in 4 different kinds of reading opportunities, if it is possible, on a daily or weekly basis.

Reading to increase ability
First, the child should be reading something that is at their own reading ability daily.

My preference is to use “real books”, on history and science topics. Once the child reaches a solid 3rd or 4th grade reading level, many books abound which fit the bill. It is difficult, however, to find books on a Kindergarten through 2nd grade reading level which cover history or science topics. I have chosen to use graded (non-history) readers for this first type of reading, and begin implementing history and science readers once my children are reading at about 3rd grade level.

I have always used the Pathway graded readers, and they are excellent. My kids enjoy them and I like the way they progress, with each book having fewer pictures, longer paragraphs and type more closely spaced. They make a seamless transition into reading chapter books, in my opinion.

Typically, my children read these books aloud to me, but from time to time I have them read silently alone and then I ask questions about the books to check their comprehension. It is easier to read silently than aloud, but emerging readers will often skip or substitute words, making it difficult to know how well they have read the passage unless they do so aloud.

There are other options widely available in the Graded Reader category. We also use the Nature Readers from Christian Liberty Press. The first one is about 2nd to 3rd grade reading level and they progress from there. Christian Liberty Press has several excellent history readers for children once they get to a solid 3rd or 4th grade reading level. We have used Boys and Girls of Colonial Days, Stories of the Pilgrims and History Stories for Children.

Reading for Pleasure and to increase Speed and Confidence
Children should also be reading something they enjoy which is below their reading level in order to strengthen their speed, comprehension and confidence as a reader. I give my children at least 30 minutes daily to read silently to themselves. They can either choose one of the Pathway readers which they have already completed or another book that should be simple enough for them to do with very little help.

Sometimes, for my 1st grade level reader, it is hard to find a book that doesn’t have at least a few words he doesn’t know. In this case, I read the book with him once, side by side, and then he is sent off to try and read it alone a 2nd time through. Other times, I tape record my voice reading the book to him, and he is asked to read along with the tape a couple of times, and then try to read the book alone.

I currently have two emerging readers (one at 1st grade level, one at 2nd grade level). They enjoy sitting side by side and trying to sound out a book together. They have had success with the Read Aloud Bible Stories by Ella K. Lindvall. Volumes 1 and 2 have New Testament stories, Volumes 3 and 4 are Old Testament. They can also read some of the Young Reader’s Bible.

We also like the Rookie Biography series and the On My Own Biography series for my 2nd grade reader. For science readers, I like the graded Let’s Read and Find Out Science series.

Choral Reading
The third type of reading experience children benefit from is choral reading. We sit side by side and the child reads all the words he can. The adult needs to anticipate the words that will be too difficult for the child, and supply those words softly and quickly as they arise, ideally in such a way that the child really doesn’t even need to pause. They receive the word from you (you having anticipated the need) the moment they need it and then they can continue on. This gives the child a feeling of having read something that is actually a little bit too difficult for them, and I have found that they enjoy it and it builds confidence and word-recognition. Frequently, these more difficult words will occur again and again in the book, and once they have heard it the first time they recognize it afterward.

Reading to increase vocabulary and comprehension
It is important for children to listen to someone else read to them, beyond their grade level, in order to increase reading comprehension. I still occasionally read aloud to even my excellent high-school level reader. We also utilize many books on MP3 from Audible, so that the children can easily hear this kind of reading daily. They frequently listen to books on tape or MP3 in their beds at night as they are settling down to sleep.

Making the transition to chapter books
Once a child is at the point where he is capable of reading a chapter book, you can start to help him move in that direction. I often get multiple copies of a simple chapter book from the library so that I and my struggling readers can each have a copy. We take turns, each reading one page aloud. I spent one whole semester reading chapter books aloud like this, in round robin fashion, with two of my children. By the second semester, both had gained the confidence needed to try out a chapter book on their own. Once they had finished one chapter book alone, there was no stopping them!

Another technique that I have found effective is to begin choral-reading a very interesting chapter book, and then to stop reading at a particularly interesting part. Leave the book out where the child can get it himself. If he is interested in the story, he may just pick up the book and attempt to finish it himself. My oldest did this with a Childhood of Famous Americans book about Lou Gherig.

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”


  1. Excellent post! I have an emerging reader, just finishing K, and even though he’s my fifth child that I’ve taught to read, I found some great gems in your suggestions. Thank you for such a helpful entry.

    Lisa Kjeldgaard

  2. Dear Molly,
    I’m wrapping up listening to your podcast with the 2009 Homeschool Expo about home libraries. Thank you for the excellent list of resources. I have 3 sons (6,4,1) and feel so equipped with information and ready to “purge” the fluff from our library. Thank you kindly!

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