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Learning to read can be one of life's most stressful events for a child. For some children, picking up phonics and spelling seems like second nature. For others, the reading process sparks long-lasting low confidence and a chronic distaste for schoolwork. There are several critical issues that can block a child's reading, which we have written about, but an important one for most struggling readers is confidence and stress. Parents often find it difficult to know how to build up self-confidence in a child while also correcting their mistakes. Pairing praise and criticism is not an easy job, so we have a special rule that helps to keep the two in balance.
We recommend something called The Rule of 5. The Rule of 5 states that for every one time you have to correct your child, you have to praise her five times.
This formula comes from a simple idea that I'm sure every parent would acknowledge: even children with good self-worth take corrections as criticisms. For a struggling learner, the very act of trying to read exposes him to lots of public failure - in front of a teacher, peer or just a parent. A word of correction, even gently spoken, can further lead to despair if it's not balanced with praise for little achievements as well. Getting into a pattern of praising success re-routes that negativity and confidence grows.
We call it The Rule of 5 simply to make this general praise-first model more tangible. You could decide to implement a Rule of 4 or even a Rule of 9! The point is to give yourself a challenge which you can then measure yourself against. As humans, we are better at performing to a specific task than a general one.
Especially if your child struggles with school and has fragile self-esteem, The Rule of 5 not only increases confidence but also will usually improve academic performance. Stress can be a main cause of reading difficulty, because your body responds to stress by shutting down the learning centers in the brain. This is a part of the "fight or flight" response. The body focuses all of its energy on responding to the threat, at the expense of non-essential functioning like digestion and learning. So once some of that school-related stress has been alleviated, the brain is much better prepared for the learning environment.
Give this a try and let us know what you find. I doubt a single reader will be disappointed!
By guest blogger, David Morgan
David Morgan is also the founder of the not-for-profit site: www.HelpingEveryChildtoRead.com