Most kids you get into your home will struggle with reading and writing at some level. These two areas are the foundation for any academic success and without these being at or close to grade level your kids will always feel ‘less worthy’ at some level. Foster kids are under so many disadvantaged circumstances and its your duty to help them increase their skills at some level. You have a calling on your life to help them by holding a hand out. They may not reach for it or hold on but you have done your part. A lot of these kids just don’t know what its like to have a parent help them with homework or reading and writing. The home is often seen as a completely separate part from school and the two have no bridges or things in common. As if these kids don’t already feel ‘less than’ school often is a place where they are really feeling like failures or outcasts. Even the toughest kid you think doesn’t care, at some point has been made to feel like a ‘dummy’ in the school setting. If you can help show them even the slightest bit of success at school you are doing wonders for their self esteem and future success!
Getting creative with how to help improve their academic success by reading & writing skill increase is your first step. For almost any age I LOVE audio books paired with the paper book. This is a way to have kids do independent reading (Freeing you up time) and improve their reading level. I have had teens that hate reading and haven’t read a book in years on their own, but put them on a Twilight Saga audio book and a 2 inch thick novel is finished in a month! A lot of kids w/ learning disabilities or low reading scores need that combination of seeing, hearing and most importantly hearing it correctly to raise their level. A lot of kids are working so hard on figuring out the words they can’t listen to the story and miss most of the comprehension. You need to tap into what the kid may be interested in in order to get them reading. Some of my kids like the vampire series while others prefer books written by previous foster kids. Teens can be the hardest to get interested in reading but often time there are books out there that speak directly to their issues whether thats being in foster care, coming from abusive homes, teen sex/gangs etc or celebrity gossip. I have fuond that having a few Celebrity Gossip magazines around helps them pick up something and read! Also there are great books written about rap stars and famous people that get them interested in reading. See our book list!
Getting the grade level appropriate writing work book is really helpful, you can find these at any book store for around $10. I don’t mean what grade they may actually be in, but the writing level they are actually on as far as being ‘appropriate’. So often we are trying to force them to hit grade level when they need to go back and get some remedial help to be able to catch up to their grade level. The schools will rarely go back too far and so it is usually up to us to help with this. I have found it really helps kids to know what grade level they are actually at as a motivation for them to work harder. I have had kids graduate high school with an 8th grade reading level and be so hurt when they couldn’t even keep up w/ a low level college reading class. If only someone had been honest with them they wouldn’t of felt so bad. Ask any kid ‘would you like to be up to your grade level soon with a little hard work?’ and 9 times out of 10 you will get a strong yes! Make sure they know they can increase their levels by two and three grade levels in only one years time, so they don’t feel like they could never catch up. Make sure you are aware of their IEPs and any Learning Disabilities before asserting a time frame becuase you may be getting their hopes up, but usually you can tell in a few months of working with them how fast they are making strides towards improvement to guess.This books should be kept by you and you will need to work w/ them one on one for them to be effective. Even if you can only help them with a few pages a week its better than having them work on 10 pages incorrectly- which they will mostly do and get little to nothing out of the lessons. I like to go through 2-3 pages of instructions and make sure they are very clear on what they are to do- let them independently work on what they can and at the end of say 1/2 hour they can come to me for help and to show me their finished work.
Get your kids plugged into events and contests in the area that promote reading and writing literacy can help too. The Boys and Girls Clubs of America often have contests and so do local libraries. Getting your kids to see the fun in learning helps them feel like its not just hard work or a task. They need to see some success’ and know that you are proud of them. A lot of school behavior will improve becuase they will be interested in doing well and plugging in where they may of been previously uninterested. Explaining to teens that it ties in to their first job and ability to earn money helps motivate them too!
The key to helping any kid in any subject is find out what makes them tick! If they like rap- oh how poetic!! If they like crime oh how crime novels could be a fit! If they like cooking- cookbooks galore! If they like art and music find some biographies of their favorites!!