Struggling Readers and the Classroom Environment

Categories: TeacherTeaching


Skillful reading is considered as the measure of scholarly success. The society demands readers thus pilling pressure on the need to know how to read (Torgesen, 2002). Understanding how to read begins in our toddler years. At such an age, children with learning disabilities are likely to get rejected by their peers (Nabuzoka, 1993). High-quality reading is comprised of five main elements: comprehension, fluency, phonemic awareness, phonics, and vocabulary. The most neglected among the elements is fluency (NRP, 2000). Reading difficulties are worse among children from low-income families.

The challenges are a result of inconsistent school attendance, poor instructions and under motivation at home (Torgesen, 2002). Reading fluency is of importance since everyone is bound to have to read at one time in their life.

Modern-day success in education has been measured by how one is fluent in reading. In addition to fluent reading, understanding what one is reading is of much more importance. High-quality reading is composed of five essential elements: fluency, phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, and comprehension.

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Some people find the five elements easy for them while for others it’s a mountainous task. Struggling students who fall behind when others progress often lack confidence and develop low self-esteem.

This research demonstrates some of the critical effects of the classroom on struggling readers. Although most students get accustomed to reading during their early elementary school through instructions delivered in the classroom, there are cases of some children who appear to gain little profit from these general classroom instructions for reading. According to Bower & Newby-Clark (2002), these children are susceptible to reading failure and later being identified for special education programs.

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These programs have indeed been helpful to some of the struggling classroom readers, but not all of them. Recently, there has been an increased search for effective ways that can help prevent adverse classroom effects and early school failure for learners. Recent research by Archambault (1989) states that for the instructions taught by teachers to struggling readers have maximum efficiency and the support needs to begin early, once the teacher noticed their difficulties. He says that it is much more difficult to make the necessary interventions if the problems are late to be discovered. Both quality instructions and early intervention are quite essential for the success of struggling readers in the classroom, but is this all there is to it?

According to Torgesen (2002), reading problems are seen in junior low-income students usually results from diverse factors that include; inconsistent school attendance, poor guidance and under simulation at home. Of all the predictive factors of problems related with readers, among the strongest is connected with teacher classroom inattention, even when without the presence of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (Dally, 2006). Furthermore, the researchers Al Otaiba & Fuchs (2006) believe that inattentive student’s issues of reading are surprisingly resistant to efforts of prevention; and that the current reading interventions are ineffective on numerous readers. It has never been more evident how critical the issue of addressing the inattention is classroom struggling readers, is the opinion of Rabiner et al. (2004). The researchers insisted that students of today are increasingly being challenged and expected to perform at rates of academic performance higher than ever before. In particular, being proficient at reading has been placed as the hallmark of success for young readers. This value of being a fluent reader fuels the literate workforce demanded by the society. Therefore, teachers often find themselves inadvertently ignoring the struggling readers as they instruct the general classroom.

Teachers’ Impact on Struggling Readers

Teachers have a direct impact on the academic performance of children. In consequence, it is essential to examine the role of teachers in influencing the academic proficiency of students who struggle with reading. There is a definite correlation between teaching and children who face difficulties when reading. Relevant stakeholders of the educational sector can play a significant role in improving their proficiency at supporting children who experience problems when reading.

Reading Fluency Strategies

Each learner has their predicament regarding their reading fluency. It is therefore essential to have multiple solutions at hand. Some of the problems that amount to reading problems include poor instruction, under-stimulation, inconsistent school attendance and classroom inattention by the teacher. To build fluency in reading means improving the rate at which a student applies the proper reading skills. The most popular methods to improve fluency is reading repeatedly and enhancing student concentration in class. Practice makes perfect therefore repeated reading would make a better reader. Research shows that at a young age when teaching children being taught how to read they get easily distracted. It is thus paramount that teachers develop creative ways to keep their young students focused.

Parental Involvement

Parents and reading resources play a crucial role when designing a child’s reading capacity. Parents spend more time with their children, and thus they can use the time to improve their children’s reading skills. Reading resources that children get exposed to is critical. Children ought to be revealed gradually to content from easy word books to storybooks with more content.

Reading motivation

In line with statistics from recent research by NAEP (2002), 36% of readers in the US are struggling and that their fluency is at “below basic” level. This indicates that these numbers of readers have not yet acquired even partial mastery of essential knowledge and necessary skills that are crucial for that grades work. Remedial programs are then assigned to try and accelerate themselves towards the levels of their grade peers. According to Stanovich (1986), illustrated in his well-known Mathew effects, the importance of motivating struggling readers to close the gap between them and their average or above average peers is paramount. It is mainly because the gap will widen because skilled readers will progressively seek new reading opportunities while poor readers remain stagnant since they engagements of reading (Stanovich, 1986).

Studies by Anderson & Fielding (1988) show that good readers read approximately 200 times more minutes those poor readers; compared with average readers who achieve five times less than good readers, it is a depressing statistic (Anderson & Fielding, 1988). This scary concept is what triggers the need to include motivational components and characteristics in the remedial programs of these struggling readers. Knapp (1998), believes that interweaving motivational and guidance programs for struggling readers is when one best way of appealing to the students subconscious; therefore, motivating the reader to be more proficient at reading.

Teachers’ Role

In the writings of Johnston (2004), teachers have to cultivate a strong sense of equality within the whole classroom and tutor the readers with guidance methods that promote agency in them. He defined agency as “a sense that if you act, and act strategically, you can accomplish your goals (Johnston, 2004, p.29). The readers need to develop agency and become protagonists in their narratives. However, on their own, they will mostly choose a literacy story where they are not the protagonists as they tend to expect rejection and failure. According to Pinnel & Fountas (2008), the classroom teacher has an invaluable opportunity to arbitrate in the struggling readers’ narrative. Before intervening with any struggling reader, it is essential that the teacher has a belief that these students cannot only learn but also be capable of contributing to the learning community. In the opinion of Allington et al. (2006), rather than reciting curriculum class information, process-oriented and enthusiastic teachers guide their students on ways of learning independently (Allington et al., 2006). As Johnston (2004) insisted, to understand the readers’ sense of agency cultivation they need to look at the kinds of narrations they arrange for students to tell themselves. Such teachers are indeed qualified to help struggling readers to shift from claiming ‘I can’t’ to ‘I can.’

Ladd (2005) suggested that development of positive relationships with grade peers is a crucial factor for the adjustment of struggling readers. Unfortunately, gaining peer acceptance and initiating classroom friendships is quite an insurmountable task for a poor reader (Ladd, 2005). In particular, for juniors with low self-esteem and poor social skills which are highly susceptible to peer rejections (Nabuzoka & Smith, 1993). This is precisely where a teacher should play a proactive role; such as setting reading groups, to help the struggling readers in developing a supportive classroom environment. The transactional theory of adaptation and risk by Fergus & Zimmerman (2005) claims that protective factors rather than risk factors can allow positively enhance the proficiency of struggling readers.

Valencia & Wixson (2000) says that the teacher’s beliefs of literacy and the limitations set up by state or federal policies, as well as the varying opinions about the role of a teacher can influence the practical realities in a classroom. This will, in turn, affect the response of struggling readers to any intervention attempt of henceforth. The belief of Afflerbach et al. (1996) is that an effective teacher has the initiative to the interplay between assessment and imposed rules by progressively planning instructions based on classroom and individual reader’s results.

Advanced reader issues

There exist other problems faced by struggling readers that are just a little out of the scope of the teacher motivating or playing the assigned role. Grissmer &Willaimson (2000) believe that American schools are under a lot of scrutinies, mainly because many children are not gaining the skills required for them to achieve success in the broader culture. Low levels of reading proficiency in classrooms are especially true for children from poor communities and rural areas. According to Lee & Burkham (2002), low reading skills are proportionately more significant in rural areas than in urban areas where the poverty rates gap is humongous. These weak tax bases riddle high poverty schools, with little access to educational resources, low teachers’ income, and predictably less educated teachers. It is vital to intimately understand the schooling context of the low wealth rural societies to evaluate and develop appropriate that may be effective for the struggling readers in these environments, says Brooks-Gunn & Duncan (1997). Vernon-Feagans et al. (2012) further explain that even when trying to improve the struggling students’ achievements, rural schools still have to soldier through geographical isolation challenges and a scarce population density. According to Gallagher & Kainz (2010), such problems often limit access to suitable technology in the classrooms and even minor access to state of the art development for professional teachers. Their report highlighted that rural schools need better teacher development programs as well as better access to classroom technology or else the effect on the readers, especially the struggling ones is easily predictable.

In the opinion of Marchand-Martella (2012), poverty in school is not the most concerning difficult issue regarding the struggling readers, but student misbehavior is. To quote a literary work by the researcher wrestling, “there may be no greater hurdle in public schools today than that presented by students who exhibit challenging behavior (Westling, 2010, p.48).” Moreover, students who misbehave not only have issues with reading; they also disrupt the learning process of their peers and interfere with classroom, school or teachers’ time. As academic and behavioral problems are reciprocal, Payne, Marks & Bogan (2007) suggest that establishing learning programs where the whole classroom (including strugglers) achieves reading excellence; there will be low little occurrences of behavioral difficulties.


The effects of classrooms on struggling readers are quite diverse and caused by a myriad of issues, but one thing that’s certain is that a regular teacher can employ instructional strategies that can be effective for struggling readers. Hopefully, such early reading interventions and gains can prevent fluency failures in the subsequent grades. Perhaps the most critical insights in this issue, as stated by Zambo (2005), is for teachers to learn imperative guiding methods to support those struggling juniors by creating contexts and environments that get rid of all responses that are emotionally negative. Eventually, everyone will at one or more times of their life be required to read and understand relevant information that influences their life. The more significant part of the findings in this paper has focused on how to improve reading skills, especially at a young age. We must understand that there is no overnight formula to increase fluency. It is gradual and takes time.

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Struggling Readers and the Classroom Environment. (2021, Oct 05). Retrieved from

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