Is Your Child a Late Reader? How to Tackle Delayed Literacy
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We all know that learning to read is important, but to what extent does delayed literacy really have adverse effects on our kids? Research shows that delayed literacy can lead to behavior problems and inhibit overall learning ability. Left unchecked, late readers are also at higher risk for dropping out of school, chronic unemployment and poverty.
“If you have a child who isn’t reading by the middle of first grade, you should take action,” said Dr. Kristen Kinney-Haines, director of primary literacy at K12, a leader in online learning programs for grades K – 12. “The earlier you catch a problem, the easier it is to remediate."
Experts estimate nearly 40 percent of U.S. 4th graders do not achieve basic levels of reading proficiency, according to Reading Is Fundamental, a prominent children’s literacy organization. The number is higher among low-income families, certain minority groups, and English language learners. The Annie E. Casey Foundation, a nonprofit that serves disadvantaged children, cites that the failure to read proficiently is linked to higher rates of school dropout.
Both organizations point to national implications that go way beyond the classroom. Literacy problems can prevent these children from fully participating in society, suppress individual earning potential, and affect our nation’s competitiveness and productivity. What's more, research suggests that if children aren’t reading by the third grade, they’re at risk for becoming an unfortunate statistic. According to an article at LD Online, if struggling readers’ difficulties are not remediated early, “this cumulative deficit… may be extremely difficult to overcome.”
Reading problems may be more common than you think. But in many cases parents have the power to turn things around. Experts agree it’s never too soon to encourage literacy or begin to remediate problems. Here’s what you can do:
- Groups and Games. There are a whole host of methods from traditional strategies to innovative online programs that can motivate children and uncover warning signs so that parents can pursue help early. From storytime groups at local libraries to simple word games played at home, promoting early literacy can make a difference in a child’s ability once he or she reaches school age.
- Set a Good Example. Kinney-Haines said among the many literacy strategies for parents, one of the most effective is simply setting a good example. “Kids need to see reading as a desirable activity and see adults reading, too,” she said. “I grew up seeing reading happening. Going to the library was a treat, a reward, not ‘Ugh. This is something we have to do.’" Set an example as a parent that reading is something to relish in!
- Get Involved and Be Patient. "Put down the video games and turn off the TV and pick up a book. Talk about characters in books and how you can’t wait to learn what’s going to happen next,” says Kinney-Haines. Remember, children learn at different rates so understand that your child might need your help along the way. There are multiple skills that are needed to learn to read and each skill has its own developmental timeline that varies from child to child.
- Explore Literacy Programs. Consider getting help via a reading remediation program through your child’s school or an outside source. MARK12 Reading, for example, is a course available to full-time K12 students in third to fifth grade who are struggling readers. In pilot studies, each of those grade level groups showed improved reading proficiency after using the program. The good news is there are lots of programs like this available to parents. Try seeing which might be a good fit for your child.
- Start Early. For early instruction or for students who don’t have a learning disability and haven’t fallen far behind, tutoring or supplemental instruction can help. K12’s PhonicsWorks, for example, incorporates multisensory instruction—lesson activities that allow children to look, listen, touch, move, and speak, and the program is available to students outside of K12’s full-time schools. Beyond that, reading with your child at an early age is never a bad thing. The sooner the better. Just remember that patience is key, and helping them with each step along the way—even if that just means sitting with them and and being a good audience—is one of the best things any parent can do.
Remember that it's not just reading skills that literacy can have an affect on. Kinney-Haines adds, “Learning to read well is incredibly important. Even math performance is tightly linked to reading performance." Which means that reading fluency can help your child succeed in any number of subjects in school and helps to build a strong foundation for success further down the line.
Deanna Glick is a senior writer for K12. She has nearly two decades of experience as a journalist covering many topics, including education, youth and family issues. Deanna has also served as a volunteer and staff member for children's school-based nonprofit organizations. For more information about K12's tuition-free public schools in 32 states and D.C., plus its three private schools, please visit the K12 website.
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