Reading is a fundamental tool for the growth and development of children. While this sentence appears dry, dull and passé, I need you to embrace it world changer. We need our children to be fluent readers that have strong command of language who also understand what the content entails. This is not a mystery for some, however, for others, it is a wake-up call. Societally, our level of literacy dictates every aspect of our life.
We rely on words for instruction. We rely on words for work. We rely on words to stay safe. We rely on words to advance our knowledge. We rely on words to get us through every aspect of life. Even more recently, we rely on words from social media to make us laugh during these turbulent times.
In kindergarten, we start the process of decoding words and within three years’ time, we move past decoding words to understanding the content on the page. By third grade, our reading becomes so complex that we are reading for information, rather than reading to put sounds together. And, what is more interesting, the words become more complex. Don’t believe me…compare a second-grade vocabulary list to a third-grade vocabulary list. Or pick up a third-grade book and compare it to a second-grade book.
The state of our current educational institutions are designed to pass children along despite their mastery of alphabet sounds and letter recognition. Report cards now focus on areas mastered based on numerical scores and within these scores display our children’s area(s) of weakness. So, when you look at what they have mastered, sometimes you may notice gaps. Because school years are designed to continually progress, areas unmastered are not revisited. Unfortunately, teachers no longer have the time and resources to ensure that all students are proficient.
What does that mean for you parent? Any area not mastered, or any gap in learning can turn into an opportunity for the “snowball effect.” The snowball effect is where something small eventually turns into something large and uncontainable. If your child is missing literacy milestones, or alphabet mastery, or sound mastery, or blend mastery, it will not suddenly fix itself. It will become a huge snowball that you will personally have to contain with supplemental learning (tutoring, afterschool help, grade retention) or your child will continue to be passed through grade levels only to demonstrate difficulties passing high school exit exams.
Am I sharing this to be promote fear or downplay educational institutions? Absolutely not! I believe teachers are some of the most hard-working individuals who are not properly compensated or recognized. I am sharing this because world changer, I need you to know and understand your role and the educational institutions role so we can all work together amicably.
Earlier this week, I released a statistic that only 35% of our 4th graders are reading at a proficient level. It should start making sense by now that this is due to the gaps in their foundational learning from grades K-3rd. It is due to somewhere along the way, their foundation of turning sounds into words has not been mastered, or even possibly because they have not had enough time in books. It could even be an underlying reading deficit that has not been identified. Whatever the reason, world changer, I want you to know that this is fixable.
You are a world changer for a reason. The choices that you make can reshape your sugars future. It can truly reshape the trajectory of things in this world. I’ve seen it with my own eyes time and time again, and even in my own household.
My daughter was an early talker. She was read to nightly since birth. Learned sign language. Identified sounds early. I just knew she would be an early reader. I was convinced she would be an amazing reader. Well…let’s just say that things did not start out that way. She hated reading and it was a fight to get her to read (but she loved listening to us read…random…right). Something was not quite adding up. We put on our investigator hats and realized that she did not enjoy reading because decoding vowel families was a nightmare for her. She was using her memory to read because most primary books use sight words and embed only a few new words that are repeated throughout the story. While she was clever…this only lasted so long…guess what grade it really showed up??? Yep, by third grade. Once we knew the area of weakness, we worked on it, and now her reading is proficient.
Now…if I would have allowed her to shy away from reading because “she did not like it,” or “it was too much of a fight” or “whatever the fill in the blank reason is” than I would be telling a much different story. The snowball would have continued growing because reading is hard which makes learning hard which eventually makes it unpleasant. Think about it world changers…by middle school our sugars are reading in every subject to learn. By high school…they are reading to apply the knowledge in order to pass their classes. By college, they are reading to prepare for their professional career. If reading is still our primary method to learn, but it is an area of weakness for most, then we must start reshaping our thoughts around reading.
World changers, we must do different. We must do better. If we continue to allow this gap in literacy to grow, then as a nation, we place ourselves at risk for future repercussions that I don’t believe any of us want to see.
So, here is the deal…I need you parents to read to your child daily. I need your child who can read to read to you daily. I need your child to read alone. I need you to foster an environment that promotes reading.
Does it always have to come in a book? No! Graphic novels are a great place to start. Newspapers are wonderful (yes, they still exist). Magazines are also amazing.
How long? Great question. It depends. Here is a quick method:
You read: 20 minutes to them daily (no questions asked)
They read: Based on their age (7-year-old reads to you for 7 minutes, 8-year-old reads 8 minutes, and on and on)
They read alone: 10 minutes or longer
It is strongly encouraged for the family to choose books together. That way, everyone is interested. It is also recommended that you read above their grade level. More complex books create a larger vocabulary. If attention is an issue, cut your reading time down. Add a minute every week until you reach back to 20 minutes of reading to them.
Try to limit interruptions as much as possible when they are reading. And allow them time to decode difficult words before jumping in. This will provide time for them figure it out (and it will keep them from relying on you to be the dictionary).
Also make sure to have a dictionary around so they can look up new words. Make it fun!
World changer, I know you can do this! Remember, we are all in this together!
Share your reading story, books you love to read, or pictures of your story time. We would love to hear from you. Community grows when we are encouraged by each other.
Until the next time, take care! C