For your child to succeed in middle and high school, he needs to become a proficient reader by the end of third grade. If not, his reading problems will likely persist through high school, causing other academic problems and increasing the likelihood of social and emotional problems; in adulthood, struggles with reading will diminish his chance of getting and holding a decent job. As the Annie E. Casey Foundation so clearly states:
Reading proficiently by the end of third grade … can be a make-or-break benchmark in a child’s educational development. Up until the end of third grade, most children are learning to read. Beginning in fourth grade, however, they are reading to learn, using their skills to gain more information in subjects such as math and science, to solve problems, to think critically about what they are learning, and to act upon and share that knowledge in the world around them. Up to half of the printed fourth-grade curriculum is incomprehensible to students who read below that grade level…. And three quarters of students who are poor readers in third grade will remain poor readers in high school…. Not surprisingly, students with relatively low literacy achievement tend to have more behavioral and social problems in subsequent grades and higher rates of retention in grade. The National Research Council asserts that “academic success, as defined by high school graduation, can be predicted with reasonable accuracy by knowing someone’s reading skill at the end of third grade. A person who is not at least a modestly skilled reader by that time is unlikely to graduate from high school.” (Feister, 2010, p. 10)
If you suspect your child has reading problems, we urge you to:
- Quickly ask the school to have a reading specialist evaluate your child’s reading abilities. Ask for a reading program that mirrors the findings.
- Ask the school to frequently monitor your child’s progress in this or any other reading program. You do the same. If progress is poor, ask the school to investigate why and then modify his program to reflect their findings. Keep monitoring his progress.
- Consider hiring a reading specialist to help you work with the school to plan and monitor your child’s progress and to coordinate his in-school work with enjoyable in-home activities.
- Help your child succeed in activities that may involve some reading, but don’t depend on reading, such as sports, singing, and woodworking. Let him choose the activities.
- Read to your child regularly and frequently. Have him choose the books. Don’t question him about the books; instead, discuss them with him, as you would with friends.
- Spend about three minutes teaching your child one new listening vocabulary word every day or every other day. Relate the words to what he knows. Make the activities fun. Regularly use the words in conversation.
- Listen carefully to understand your child. Even if you disagree with him, make clear that you value him and his opinions.
For specific information on reading evaluations, read chapter 5 of Reading Disabilities: Beating the Odds (www.reading2008.com). For information on monitoring, chapter 7. And for his educational rights (and yours), chapters 9 through 13. But whatever you do, get the evaluation. Don’t delay.
Feister, L (2010). Early Warning: Why Reading at the End of Third Grade Matters. Baltimore, MD. Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Howard Margolis, Ed.D. (c) Reading2008 & Beyond