Recently I was disturbed by an article I read online at AP News titled, Louisiana reading scores for young students continue to drop. The article listed troubling yet familiar statistics that should alarm educators, parents, and anyone who cares about the welfare of our children.
According to the AP article, 60% of kindergarten students and 58% of first-graders were reading below level. Experts warn that if a child isn’t reading by grade level when they enter the third grade there’s the potential for long-term learning problems.
Sadly, this information isn’t surprising to most of us. Louisiana has consistently ranked last or at the bottom when it comes to education. Superintendent Cade Brumley’s words resonated with me, “We need a reading revival in this state.” Merriam-Webster defines revival as renewed attention to or interest in something. Some of us need to renew our interest in this reading crisis while others need to develop an interest in this crisis that affects our most vulnerable population. Our children.
Learning starts at home and some say even in the womb. The American Society of Pediatricians states that reading to your infant can boost vocabulary and reading skills in children for when they start elementary school. These cute little babies that rely on us for physical nourishment also need us to provide their mental nourishment. I’m in awe that a cooing infant who can’t yet speak words is able to absorb the words from books that we read to them.
We owe it to our children to change this narrative and give them the best opportunity possible. We are their first teachers and it’s only fair that we give them a fighting chance and head start.
Here are some ways that we can make reading a part of our routine and fun.
The library. I can’t stress enough how important the library has been in my life. The library was our family’s “free fun” when they were little, which we frequented 2-3 times a week. During Covid the local library is open, but you must visit the website for rules on entry. I suggest letting your child pick some books out online and putting them on hold via the library website. They will notify you via email and text when your books are ready for pickup. It’s such an easy process. I know because I’ve been borrowing dozens of books at a time during the lockdown. Need help figuring out which books to check out? See our article on Black Children's Authors for your Children's Bookshelves.
Comic books, graphic novels, magazines, newspapers, etc. It doesn’t matter what your child chooses to read as long as they read. I suggest letting them check out what they like but requiring they mix in a different book outside of their favorite genre each time. My son gets the Game Stop magazine, and I encourage him to read and learn about the upcoming titles soon to be released, but occasionally he has to read something else for variety and to expand his thinking.
Recipes. If your child wants to try a new recipe, it’s a perfect opportunity to let them do the reading and measuring while you supervise. I recently supervised the making of muffins and had a lively discussion on using a ½ cup of milk vs ½ cup of water in the recipe. Even though my kids were learning they were having too much fun to think of the activity as a lesson.
Reread books. If your child has a favorite book they enjoy rereading, let them. Rereading our favorite books is fun. Repetition helps with word building and comprehension. Ask inferring questions about the story or have your child come up with a different beginning, middle or end.
Bonding time. Reading is a great way to bond with your children. This semester my teen and I read all of the required reading for Hamilton and shared many laughs together. Was it easy? No. Was it all fun? Not exactly. To be honest, some nights I just wanted to be left alone with my kindle but his education is a priority. Besides, if I can’t give my kid 30-minutes to an hour of my time, I need to reevaluate things.
Tips for parents of middle-grade or high-school students. I suggest ordering an extra copy of whatever book your child is required to read to make it easier. Personally, passing a book back and forth gets tiring quickly, and having my own copy allows me to keep track of what words my child is struggling with. Our method is I read one page and he reads the next. I often pause to ask questions to make sure he’s comprehending what’s been read so far. It’s truly a learning and bonding time.
If your child is struggling and you have concerns, reach out to their teachers or pediatrician. Early intervention is key to getting your child the help they need to succeed. The efforts you put into your children do pay off. Reading is so important for children's development, self-esteem, and future success.
Visit these online reading resources for parents.