It is a matter of increasing concern that many high school students are graduating with no more than elementary school reading ability, and some with no reading ability at all. Federal studies have shown that 43% of all elementary school children need help with their reading while a shocking 20% suffer total illiteracy.
Now the Board of Education is finally trying to correct that sad situation by reinstitution the so-called hold over policy that requires teachers to hold students back from promotion if their reading is a year below grade level. Thus, if your child is in the second grade and the required reading level is 1.7 but his is only 1.5, he will not be moved to the third grade in June. That kind of set-back can easily affect the child emotionally, and it is up to the parents to prevent the situation from arising in the first place.
If you introduce your child to reading while he is at the pre-school age, or at least instill in him the importance of being able to read, you have already taken the first step. Scholastic Magazine, a leader in the field of child education, offers the following suggestions:
1. Make a home book-shelf with your child where he or she can keep his or her books. Watch it grow.
2. Set aside fifteen minutes a day to read to your children. When you’re finished, ask the children to tell you what the story was about. Older children can sometimes read to you as well.
3. Let your children get close to you when you read to them. Hold the book so that they can see it.
4. Have your children read to each other without you. They will develop a habit that will become a quiet, happy part of the evening — every evening, if possible?
Take your children to libraries as often as you can, many public libraries now have reading clubs and story-telling hours. Encourage your children to make their own selections of reading material, and give books instead of toys on such special occasions as birthdays or Christmas. Take your children with you to department stores and let them browse in the children’s section of the book department. In short, do everything you can to heighten the child’s interest in reading.
If your neighborhood does not have a good library, you ought to look into a national program called RIF (Reading Is Fundamental). A non-profit organization, it was started by Mrs. Robert S. McNamara in 1966 for the purpose of getting books to children and children into books by supplying the vital, missing ingredient — motivation.
RIF motivates children to read by offering them a choice of well-illustrated low-cost books, stressing as key factors freedom of choice and pride of ownership. For information on starting a local RIF project, write: RIF, Inc., Smithsonian Institution, 2500 L’Enfant Plaza, Washington, DC 20560. If you live in New York City, you might ask them about distribution points that have already been set up here, such as the one at the Northside Center for Child Development, Fifth Avenue at 110th Street.
Reading (and writing)
Reading and writing are the most important basic skills your child needs to make it through life, and the sooner you begin to interest him in those skills, the better. Why not start with some books under this year’s Christmas tree?