Imagine going to work every day feeling that you were not capable of doing your job. If you struggled with the basic tasks you were asked to complete, if you couldn’t meet the goals and expectations of your boss, and if you felt less adequate than your coworkers, would you want to keep going?

It is common for struggling readers to feel that they are failing at their “job” as students. Learning to read is key to being successful at that job, so when students struggle in this area, they can easily become discouraged, overwhelmed, and frustrated. Such feelings not only affect their peer relationships and academic success, but their image of self-worth as well. How can you tell if a student is struggling with low self-esteem?   

Children who struggle with low self-esteem may have little or no desire to learn to read or go to school. They might start acting out in class or responding with negative feedback. They often use self-defeating phrases such as “I’m just not smart enough” or “I’ll never learn how to do this.” They need your help in turning their negative thoughts into positive ones.

Here are a ten ways to increase your struggling reader’s self-esteem:

  1. Explain that how well she reads has nothing to do with her intelligence. Every person is unique and has to learn in the way that is best for them.
  2. Encourage him by setting realistic goals that allow for many small successes.
  3. Chart her progress so that she can see improvement.
  4. Help him find reading materials at his reading level that are interesting to him.
  5. Help her break up assignments into smaller, more manageable parts.
  6. Provide goal-based praise rather than person-oriented praise, such as, “You did a great job sounding out those words” rather than, “I’m proud of you.” This will help him focus on the task he accomplished well.
  7. Show patience. How you react to her reading difficulties will set the tone of the experience. Your patience will help her learn patience with herself and will help her feel safe as she practices reading.
  8. Give frequent praise. Learning to read is difficult and can easily turn into a stressful experience. Your praise will help create a positive reading experience.
  9. Help her focus on the positive. Have her list 10 things she likes about herself, including things she can do well.
  10. Tailor instruction to his learning style. Some students are visual learners, some are auditory learners, and some are hands-on learners. By teaching with a variety of learning styles, you provide opportunities for him to succeed in his area of learning.

Above all, children need to know that you believe in them. They can learn to do anything with practice, and your confidence in them will help them build confidence in themselves.