Talk to Me (2/19): Kids Literacy

Alright, so it should be no surprise by now that I’m a huge advocate of kids reading. I know its important. I know that a solid foundation in literacy skills will help the kids their whole lives. I know that reading also helps expand the imagination, encourages creativity, and serves as bonding experience when you read with a friend or family member.

So…the following quote scares the bloody hell outta me.

“Did you know that only about one third of American fourth-graders are proficient in reading? By fourth grade, if children can’t read at grade level, they’re unlikely to ever catch up.” – Save the Children

Is that not terrifying? Just let that sink in for a moment. We only have until kids are about 9 years old to get them reading proficiently  without them having to struggle hard to catch up, if they ever do, in the future. Only about 1/3rd of the kids that are our future are proficient in reading at the end of that easy-to-get-it age range. Jesus.

Know what’s even more ridiculous and sad? The fact that we have more information, programs, and general knowledge on teaching reading and how important it is to read than we ever have. Yet with all that, ONLY one third of American fourth-graders are proficient in reading.

Why do you think that is?

The answer that pops into my mind is immediately “electronics have become a babysitter” followed by “teachers are pushed to get kids to pass tests, not to actually learn.”  But, two things about that... (I think I’m arguing with myself here…lol.)

From personal experience: Miss L plays on her tablet, the gaming system, my phone, etc., almost every day. I have no problems with letting her chill out practicing hand-eye coordination. (Now, with that being said, I try to make sure she has educational games available on her tablet, and the only apps available to her on my phone are learning games.)  You could say, especially when I’m tired and grumpy, that I let electronics babysit her.

Miss L reads at a 4th grade level.

Also, in regards to teachers pushing kids to pass tests, not learn… I believe this is so. I really do. I think that so much importance has been placed on kids passing standardized tests that actual education is failing miserably… BUT …

Miss L reads at a 4th grade level.

So, what’s the factor here that makes her different? Is it because she’s extremely intelligent? No. Its not. I would love to be able to boast my child is a genius, but… she’s not. She’s perfectly average. In fact, her Math scores a bit below average.

The difference is my partner and I.

We both work full-time. L is either at school, followed by latchkey until nearly six, or she’s at the babysitter’s until six (during the summer). So its not like we have tons of spare time.

Since she was itty-bitty, its been bed-time stories from mommy and daddy both.

Since she’s been able to talk, its been cuddling up on the couch with a book whenever she asks. Its been reading whatever I’m reading at the time to her, if she’s curious about it. So, yeah, L’s listened to several pages of a hard sci-fi novel before. Heh! In fact, she’s currently listening to Saturn Run with me in the car. I keep having to pause it to explain a concept to her, but who cares? She’s interested enough to ask, so I’ll answer!

Since she was about 3, its been weekly trips to the library where she’s allowed to pick out any books that look interesting to her. (Along with a few ‘let’s give these a try’ books.)

Since she was 4, its been biweekly trips to the cheap bookstore, where she’s always allowed to buy at least one book.

Its high-fives, hugs, and cuddles and lots and LOTS of encouragement about her reading.

Why do you like to read? is a question I recently asked Miss L. Her response was:  “Because it just makes me smart. ”

Now, I’m willing to admit we have a pretty good situation. I mean, its a two parent household, both of us only have one job, etc.  So, what about single parents? The ones that have to work two jobs even? I mean, number one, its just freaking wrong that a single parent would have to work two jobs to support their family, but it happens. The parent has to rely upon the babysitter and/or the school to push literacy skills. That doesn’t always work out well.

So how do we fix it? What can we do?

In conclusion, I think the biggest stepping stone or stumbling block to kid’s literacy is parental involvement. What about you?

**Edited to Add: This is, of course, a generalization. There are always going to be circumstances in which this is not the case.**

Talk to me!



Save the Children

Soho Center’s National Children’s Literacy Information Project

The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance

13 thoughts on “Talk to Me (2/19): Kids Literacy

  1. My own personal experience also confirms that parental involvement is important. My father was a story teller in many way, and used to read to us at bed time. Both he and my mother were readers, even if hers were primarily romance gothics and murder mysteries. Even though I’m the only one of the three of us kids who went on to get a college education, we’re all readers.
    Here’s my homage to my father:

    1. By 4 I was reading He-Man and She-Ra books, by 8 I was reading historical romances, because that’s what my mom read. Now, of course, I won’t touch them, BUT… my mom is definitely the one that got me hooked on reading.

  2. My eldest son had trouble reading and by the third grade was just below grade level, according to the school and his testing scores. I was told he didn’t qualify for additional help because he had to be in the lowest 20%. Luckily, we were finally able to have him tutored by a reading specialist (other reading programs were unsuccessful) one on one. Within a year, she had him reading above grade level! Best money I ever spent!! While we are all avid readers here and he’d always been read to, he just needed a bit extra from someone with a specialized skill set. Wish there were more Ms. McIlvain’s in the world…..she’s magical!

    1. So it was still parental involvement to get him reading in a way because you were the ones that recognized the problem and got him help. 🙂 wonderful teachers are in short supply. I’m glad he reads now.

  3. so, I stopped working before kiddo was born. he has been read to a minimum of 15 minutes a day since birth. And since he has been able to talk it’s been vastly more because he loves books. Loves them. And yet he reads at…oh wait, he doesn’t read. He’ll be seven soon and he doesn’t read. Parental involvement can’t solve everything. But what a mess he’d be in with different parents, eh?

  4. The same thing is true about our overall health. We have more info nowadays on how to be healthy, not to mention more option to do so, and yet as a whole, we are the same if not less healthy than our fifty years ago, Ill-informed counterparts.

    But I do agree. That quote is terrifying.

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