How to Help a Struggling Reader

With over 36 million US adults struggling to read and write above a third grade level (, chances are you have recently crossed paths with someone who has literacy issues. Maybe it is your co-worker, a neighbor, or a patient in your doctor’s waiting room. Illiteracy is a closely guarded secret, and can be challenging to identify. Here is a list from the Education Development Center describing common behaviors of persons with literacy issues:

1. Has extremely poor spelling skills.
2. Uses excuses like, “I forgot my glasses.” when asked to read.
3. Tends to go to the same few restaurants and order the same thing.
4. Orders what someone else has ordered or asks the server for suggestions at unfamiliar restaurants.
5. Carries a book, newspaper or magazine, but doesn’t read it.
6. Avoids filling out forms or asks to take the form home to fill out.
7. Conducts most business in cash and often prefers to pay bills in person.
8. Resists writing lists or notes instead relies on memory
9. Foregoes promotion opportunities at work or avoids looking for another job
10. Stays in a comfort zone: shops the same stores, buys the same products, and travels the same routes.
11. Shows up really early or too late because they cannot read a calendar or appointment card.
12. Avoids social situations, feels a sense of desperation or shame.

If you suspect someone is struggling with literacy issues, here are some ways you can help:

1. Be aware! Learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of low literacy.
2. Be sensitive. If comfortable, broach the subject with discretion and mention you have noticed the issues.
3. Be thoughtful with word choice. Suggest they might like to “refresh their skills” and refer them to MARC for help. Offer to help make an appointment or guide them in contacting the office.

MARC provides free, confidential literacy services to benefit the greater Montcalm County area, working with dedicated volunteers and community partners to ensure all people have the opportunity to read, write, speak in English, and compute and solve problems proficiently.  MARC is dedicated to the principle that all people should be functionally literate.



1 thought on “How to Help a Struggling Reader

  1. Very nice.

    Shirley Pyle

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