Thousands of people in the Quad-Cities are doing their part to help children read.
They are teachers, parents, volunteers, librarians, siblings.
From the thick-board picture books of infancy to Dr. Seuss and “Fancy Nancy,” “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and “Goodnight Moon,” parents read lots of books to children and listen as books are read back to them. Teachers and para-educators spend many hours in the classroom talking about how sounds build into words, words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs. Volunteers in our community fan out to preschools and afterschool programs to read.
We’ve written about the efforts of college students working in elementary schools as tutors, reading time incorporated into the YMCA’s Camp Abe Lincoln, and programs offering free books such as the Dolly Parton Imagination Library and the annual Reading Adventures program sponsored by Alcoa and the Quad-City Times.
It’s a mighty effort, but we need to ramp it up.
A new community-based effort is committed to getting Quad-City third-graders reading at a third-grade level. Test scores on 2012 standardized achievement tests taken by schoolchildren in Iowa and Illinois show a wide variance in proficiency. It’s clear that poverty is a factor in lower reading achievement, so the issue does not have a simple solution.
Grade-level reading by the end of third grade is an important goal. National studies say the third-grade reading benchmark is a critical step in the educational development of a child. Before third grade, children learn to read. After third grade, children read to learn. By that time, the basics of reading must be mastered so children can spend more time understanding and analyzing what they are reading, using critical thinking skills to solve problems.
Through the United Way of the Quad-Cities Area and its Education Council, a committee is creating a local Grade Level Reading Plan. These groups have already completed a kindergarten readiness inventory for teachers to use. The results of the first inventory done in the fall show that 1 in 6 local children are unprepared for their first day in kindergarten. That rises to 1 in 4 in low-income neighborhoods. Readiness for kindergarten is a key building block to academic success.
In stories published on Sunday and today, the Times embarks on an effort to shine a light on what the community is doing to help children. We encourage you to get involved. Groups such as the Women’s Leadership Council, which coordinates a volunteer reading program at 17 preschool and afterschool sites, are always looking for volunteers.
In future reporting, we’ll take you into homes and classrooms to show you how children are learning. And we’ll take you to volunteer sites and show how you can help.
Please consider joining this effort.