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How Can a Growth Mindset Help My Struggling Reader?

Updated: Sep 11, 2019

Did you know that your expectations can actually affect your child’s performance? If you call your child a gifted reader and tell them they have potential, they’ll rise to the occasion – but if you label your child as a struggling reader or say “you failed,” your child will sink. In fact, one study found kids were four times more likely to drop out of high school if they had been labeled as “struggling” by the time they reached third grade.

The good news is that it’s possible to flip the script no matter what your child’s reading ability – and you can do that by helping your reader develop a growth mindset. If you’ve never even heard of a “growth mindset” before, you’re probably asking:

  • What exactly is a growth mindset?

  • How can a growth mindset help my struggling reader?

  • Are there ways to promote a growth mindset in my child?

In HelloJoey’s “Redefining Reading” kit, we explore ways to make reading more enjoyable for your child – including how to help improve their confidence and reading ability by promoting a growth mindset. You’ll also find other expert suggestions to help you motivate and support struggling readers and advanced readers alike.

What is a growth mindset?

The concept of having a “growth mindset” was coined by Dr. Carol Dweck in 2006. Basically, a growth mind is the belief that if you keep practicing at something, you’ll get better at it. That’s in contract to a “fixed mindset,” where you believe you can’t change how you are no matter what you do. Kids tend to shift from growth mindsets to fixed mindsets right around the third grade.

Having a growth mindset clearly ties into those “prophecy-fulfilling” expectations we set for our kids. If we tell our kids they’re bad at reading and that’s just the way it is, they’ll believe us. On the other hand, if we encourage a growth mindset and help our kids keep practicing reading, they may be more likely to decide not to let challenges get in their way. Even if an activity is really hard and your child doesn’t enjoy it, if they have that growth mindset and work at it, they can become more secure and confident in anything – including reading.

How can I promote a growth mindset?

If you’re freaking out because you’ve already told your child they struggle at reading or they’re not a good reader, don’t worry! It’s not too late to change the situation. Parents have so much influence over a child’s self-confidence and self-image, especially when they’re very young, and that puts them in a perfect position to promote a growth mindset. If you want to improve your child’s reading abilities and make reading more enjoyable, you can encourage that growth mindset with these three steps:

Make it fun. Of course, it’ll be easier to make reading fun if you enjoy it yourself, but even if you hate to read, you can find creative ways to get your family excited about it. Many popular movies and TV shows are based on books, and that gives you a great starting point. Make a game out of finding the differences between the Harry Potter movies and books – with Bertie’s Bott jelly beans for every difference you find, or get everyone in the house a pair of hobbit-feet slippers and gather in your “hobbit hole” for a family read-along.

Make it interesting. Many people think of reading as a solo activity, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If your child is more interested in playing with their friends than curling up with a book, encourage them to meet friends at the library or start a book club. Your kid and their friends may even love writing fan fiction that features themselves and their favorite characters.

Follow your child’s lead. If your child struggles with reading, they may not want to do it, so encourage them by finding material they’ll love. That can include comic books for those Marvel fans, baseball scores and stats for your little slugger, or even recipes for your budding chef. It doesn’t really matter what your child is reading – just that they are reading – so cater to their interests and hobbies.

App Tip

No matter what your child does – whether it’s read, play soccer, enter the science fair, or apply to college – they’ll be more willing to put in the work and make it happen if they decide to do it for themselves. If you push your child to do anything – including read – they may push back, and that can delay their progress even more.

By engaging your child to make activities like reading fun and interesting and by following their lead, you can promote a growth mindset and help to create more positive experiences. That, in turn, can make your kid feel more successful and confident. One win will lead to another, and before you know it, reading may actually become fun – or at least not awful. Plus, you’ll be building that relationship with your child, and that can help them to feel supported enough to tackle whatever challenges come their way.

Want to learn more about “Redefining Reading?”  Start your path to a solid parenting foundation in just 10 minutes a day. Check out the HelloJoey app.

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