If you are working with a child who struggles to read, or has dyslexia, you will know that there are periods of time you both can feel like you’re in a losing battle. It can be hard to know how to encourage the child through that struggle while also teaching them and correcting their errors. There is a special tip we always recommend that helps keep these two roles – encourager and corrector – well-balanced.

It is known as “The Rule of 5”.

“The Rule of 5” states that you must say five encouraging remarks to the child before you can say something negative.

This formula comes from a simple idea that every parent or teacher would acknowledge: even children with good self-worth take corrections as criticisms. And if you think about it, the reaction makes sense. For a struggling learner, the very act of trying to read entails public failure – in front of a teacher, peer or parent. A word of correction, even gently spoken, can compound the embarrassment a child already feels if it’s not balanced with praise for little achievements as well. Getting into a pattern of praising success subverts that negative mindset. Confidence then grows.

“The Rule of 5” is not really about any magic number ‘5 of course. You might want to pledge to a Rule of 3 or a Rule of 7, depending on the child. The idea is that once you have a numerical target to reach, it is easier to measure your success. Plus, it’s more catchy than “praise your child more times than you criticize her”, which lacks a certain ring, don’t you think?

Especially if the child suffers low self-esteem and resists going to school, “The Rule of 5” not only increases confidence but also will usually improve academic performance. This is due to another special equation: more confidence = less stress. Stress can actually cause reading difficulty, because the body’s stress response involves shutting down the learning areas of the brain as a part of the “fight or flight” response. Once some of that school-related stress has been alleviated, the brain is more primed for the learning environment.

Do you have a little rule that works well for you in encouraging your student or child? Let us know what you find, and definitely give “The Rule of Five” a try. I know you won’t be disappointed!


David Morgan is CEO of Morgan Learning Solutions, and publisher of the Easyread System. Easyread is a fully supported online teaching system for kids with dyslexia, auditory processing disorders, poor short-term memory, stress issues and more. www.morganlearning.com