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I recently assessed the reading skills of three bright,
capable third graders. They have been identified as “at risk readers”, which
means they are slated to be told that they are not reading well enough for what
lies ahead, and to be shuttled to tutors (at great expense to the school
district) where these kids will be put through a series of intensive exercises
that may or may not be appropriate for them and may or may not improve their
In fact, it’s likely that the increased concern and pressure
from teachers and parents are likely to leave these three young people
exhausted, afraid, and plagued with self-doubt. I want to stop what I see
coming next for these kids. I want teachers throughout their 3rd and 4th grades and beyond to continue
to nurture and support them.
This situation breaks my heart, and it isn’t uncommon. It
was such great fun to have these three young people sharing their enthusiasm
for reading with me. We sat on the floor with our backs against the cupboards
in my office. They leaned forward into their books and launched into “reading”.
They made sense of the long strings of letters. They were proud of their
efforts and accomplishments and eager to share the one-page stories with me. It
is obvious that their K-2 teachers have spent a lot of nurturing instructional
time with them.
The reading assessment I did assured me that these kids will
blossom into very good readers with a bit more time to mature, more practice, as
well as appropriate instruction, and encouragement.
The little-talked-about sub-text to all that goes on in
elementary school reading instruction is this: reading instruction, in most
schools, stops in the 3rd grade. In spite of the “No Child Left Behind”
mandate, all the teachers in every elementary school around the country know
that kids who don’t have a 4th grade reading ability when they enter
the 4th grade will be “left behind” to some degree.
Third grade is the year when kids advance from “little
league” reading to the “big league”, and everyone MUST advance because when
they enter the 4th-grade more than 50% of their learning will depend
on their reading ability.
If students are not reading at a 4th-grade level
by the 4th-grade, they are at risk of not “keeping up” with a
curriculum that relies heavily on a student’s reading ability and provides
minimal instruction in reading beyond that point.
What’s the matter with
basing a curriculum on reading level? you might ask.
Stay tuned for Part 2!
by Victoria Kindle Hodson, copyright 2011 by Willis & Hodson, Reflective Educational Perspectives LLC
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