Reading Struggles Can Lead to Feelings of Inadequacy

Dear Dr. Linda,

The other night there was a heart-warming story on the news that I wanted to share with you. It was a story about a professional football player, Malcolm Mitchell, who struck up a conversation with woman at a local bookstore. She went on and on about the book club she had just joined. When he asked her about joining the club, she told him he probably wouldn’t want to because it was made up of nothing but women. Now, he’s the only man in the club. Asked recently what he’s most proud of, he replied that he finished “The Hunger Games” series in two days.

“I had to work to read,” he said. “[Football] came natural.”

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Ellen P.
Retired teacher

Dear Ellen,

Thank you so much for the article. Those who don’t struggle in reading don’t realize what a heartache it is for a person who does, and unfairly, they’re very often looked upon as “lazy or stupid” or described as simply not caring.

But the students I’ve worked with over the years who struggle in school are not lazy or stupid, and they do care. Sometimes they try to act as if they don’t care by putting a shell around themselves to protect themselves from feeling stupid. Although people may be outstanding athletes or artists or musicians or carpenters, if they struggled in school, they still often feel inadequate. No matter how good you may be on the court or field, when you’re struggling to read in fifth grade and the second grader next to you on the bus is reading a Harry Potter book, it can be heartbreaking.

If you have a child or a grandchild who struggles with reading, instead of brushing it off by saying, “He’s lazy,” or “He’s a great football player, so it doesn’t matter,” or “She’s so artistic,” try to see what you can do to help her or him succeed in reading too. If you have a student who can read but struggles with comprehension, ask him to create 10 questions from the passage and test you. If your child is required to read and it’s a fight every day to get her to read, create a book club and discuss it—the book club can be made up of parents, grandparents, friends, siblings, cousins—or even the other kids on the football team.

Reading is a skill that affects our self-confidence and is fundamental to lifelong learning. Do what you can to make reading a positive part of life for those who struggle.

Dr. Linda

To find additional advice on how to help struggling readers, visit my blog at, and click on Dyslexia/Reading. And if you want to read the whole article on Malcolm Mitchell and his book club, visit:

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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