Differences Between Good & Struggling Readers

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

What makes a good reader? How do you know if a student is struggling with reading? This lesson will explore the qualities of good and struggling readers and will end with a brief quiz to see what you have learned.


Have you ever been asked by a teacher to read something to the class? How about when you were a new reader? Perhaps you quickly and easily moved through the words and felt confident in your reading ability. Or maybe you were one of the students who struggled with reading and did not feel as confident or pleased with your abilities.

Reading is an important part of a well-rounded education and is necessary as a general life skill. Some students become good readers. Others struggle with reading. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) highlights the importance of reading environment. For example, students who are read to, read frequently on their own, and who come from wealthier backgrounds tend to be better readers. In short, a student who is surrounded by readers is more likely to become one.

Teachers must be able to identify students' reading characteristics in an effort to nurture strong reading skills. Let's take a closer look at some research that highlights the characteristics of good readers and struggling readers.

Good Readers vs. Struggling Readers

Have you ever read a book that you just couldn't put down? Reading something that is interesting to you or exciting in some way seems so easy, doesn't it? Now think of a time when you struggled with a reading assignment. Times like this often leave readers lost and unsure of what they just read.

These two extremes represent some of the differences between good readers and struggling readers. We can't always choose to read things that are of particular interest to us, can we? However, good readers read frequently and are able to read and understand almost anything.

Struggling readers avoid reading and lack a skill set that supports reading. Neuroscientists, or specialists who study the brain, use brain imaging technology to see what is happening in the brains of students while they read. They have found that a lot of struggling readers have vision or language deficits that interfere with effective input and processing of letters and sounds.

Teachers can provide early intervention to equip lagging students with the skills they need to become solid readers. Several key areas have been identified as points of focus for reading instruction. Let's take a closer look at these.


When you read a post on a social networking site, do you read it the same way you would read a map? Of course not! Social media sites are used to connect people. Maps are used to direct people. These are examples of their purpose, or reasons for reading something.

Good readers are aware of the purpose before they begin reading. For example, the purpose may be for fun, for test preparation, for general knowledge, etc. The goal for the reading is clear in good readers.

On the flip side, struggling readers may not stop to ask themselves the purpose for their reading. This may cause them to jump right into reading assignments blindly and without thought. A lack of purpose in reading makes it harder to stay focused and engaged with the material.


Have you ever re-read a sentence multiple times or lost your place on a page? This lack of attention and focus is common in struggling readers. They just can't seem to engage with the material. It may seem as if they are just looking at words on a page that have no meaning.

Good readers engage with the material they are reading. They are focused on the words and their meaning. Good readers may ask themselves questions about what they just read or restate what happened.


When we feel confident, it feels as we can take on the world, doesn't it? Good readers have confidence in their reading ability. They know that they can figure out anything with their solid strategies for reading.

Good readers also have fluency, which increases feelings of confidence. Fluency means that they read quickly with great understanding. Struggling readers do not usually demonstrate fluency.

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