It may seem like all adults should know how to read in this day and age. However, there are actually many adults that still don’t know how to read or can’t read well. The organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has found that 5.2 million American adults can’t read and 50% of U.S. adults can’t read a book past an 8th grade level. With the statistics where they are, you may need to know how to teach an adult to read at some point.
Whether you are a teacher, parent, or advocate, you know that literacy is tied to nearly everything do even our interactions in social situations. An adult that is not able to read can have significant issues living in society. But, how do you teach an adult to read?
How to Teach an Adult to Read
Teaching an adult to read really isn’t much different than teaching a child. Children lack confidence because they feel like they are the only ones who can’t read. The same is true with an adult and even more so because they are older.
The sad thing is that many adults who struggle to read may have an undiagnosed learning disorder such as dyslexia, or they may have never had someone reach them. Whatever the reason is, an adult who is seeking to learn how to read needs certain learning tools. Here’s how to teach an adult to read.
The first thing you need to do with an adult is build rapport with them. Find out why they want to learn to read. Ask them how they feel about reading and why they have struggled. Let them know the statistics that 5.2 million adults don’t know how to read. This will help them not to feel alone. Talk about things they like and build off their interests to relate to the adult student. Adults don’t want to be treated like children. They want to be treated like an adult.
Skip the Children’s Story Books
First and foremost, if you have an adult that wants to learn to read, do not use children’s story books. Although these books may be an appropriate reading and spelling level for adult students, it will turn them away from reading. Presenting an adult with a children’s story book can be humiliating to the adults.
However, if an adult student is trying to learn to read to read their child a bedtime story or teach their own child to read, these books may work well. You will know by building rapport with the adult student.
Building confidence is key to helping anyone learn to read whether they are an adult or a child. Focus on what the adult does know how to read. The more you can show the student that he or she is capable of reading, the easier it will be. Build off what the person knows and help them to see that they can do this.
Consider Computer Based Learning
When we teach children to read, we typically have them do a lot of reading aloud. This may work for children, but for adults, this can be embarrassing, frustrating, and ultimately make them feel less confident. Instead, consider computer based learning that teaches an adult at their own pace. In fact, adults prefer to learn this way. Think of it like learning a different language. When we learn a new language we use Rosetta Stone.
Here are some learning based programs you can use with adults who are struggling with reading:
Teaching adults how to read has a whole different set of challenges than teaching a child to read. The key is to keep building confidence, being supportive, and encouraging them to read.
If you want to try teaching your 5 year old to learn read words, you can try some free reading lessons right here at the Reading Patch.
Try the Reading Patch
If you want to try teaching an adult to read, consider using the Reading Patch. While the site was built to help children learn to read, they have had a lot of success with adults too! There are over 120 video lessons and many materials to help you.
Sign up for our 5 days to growing a confident reader to learn more tips too!
About the Authors:
Madreen Karle is a master first grade reading teacher with over 30 years of classroom experience. She taught reading in a special needs and English as a Second Language classroom. After retiring she wrote a reading program to help others learn how to teach reading. She is a trusted educator and author of 5 books to help teach children to read and write. In addition to her books, she is a mentor for 3 websites that give reading teacher tips (Mrs. Karle’s Sight and Sound Reading, Mrs. Karle’s Reading Patch, and Mrs. Karle’s Handwriting Patch). Through her teaching she learned that confidence was the key to learning to read. A child who is not confident at reading does not like to read and struggles to read. Mrs. Karle created “sunshine moments” to help teach children how to grow their confidence and learn to read.
Meeghan Karle Mousaw (Madreen’s daughter) has her Master’s in Special Education. She has 7 years experience teaching children to read online. In addition, she developed a curriculum to teach children handwriting called The Handwriting Patch. With the Handwriting Patch learning is fun because children learn to draw and learn handwriting at the same time. In 2019 The Handwriting Patch curriculum became an amazon best seller the first year it was released, helping thousands of kids learn handwriting with a unique, fun method. She is mom to 6 kids, each with differently learning abilities and struggles.
The Reading Patch was established by the creators of Mrs. Karle’s Sight and Sound Reading. Together they have been featured on the NBC media outlets. Over the last 7 years in their online platform, Madreen and Meeghan have worked tirelessly with teachers, homeschoolers and parents looking to help children learn to read to become a trusted authority in teaching children to read and advocating early literacy skills. They often partner with other educational experts to deliver the most current information to the Reading Patch community.