Let's give each kid a round of applause every time they make even the smallest progress toward learning to read!
I remember when my daughters were small. What amazing humans! They grew and learned so fast! Sometimes it seemed like they would conquer the world with all that energy and ability. But then they started to learn the most crucial skill they would need to succeed in school and life - reading. And suddenly everything seemed to slow down. This is the biggest challenge 4 to 6 year olds have yet met - how to decode all those symbols that make up language and learn to read.
Some kids are highly motivated to learn to read and they seem to just pick up a book and off they go!
But for many of our kids, reading feels more like a road block keeping them from succeeding in school and even fitting in with their peers.
I had a student in my 3rd grade class when I was teaching named Jack. He was a bright, engaging, and personable kid who had some challenges in his home life, but otherwise Jack was a good kid. After the first week of third grade, I noticed that Jack was starting to act up and cause some trouble with the other kids in class.
Fortunately, my class that year was small, and I was able to delve a little into what was going on with Jack. I asked him to read to me, and found that he was still at a first grade level in reading. Grateful that my class was small, I organized the class into reading groups so I could spend some one-on-one time encouraging Jack to build his reading skills. I borrowed some early readers in topics that interested Jack (he loved baseball, jokes and anything with animals).
Within a few weeks Jack was looking forward to our weekly class trips to the school library and choosing his own books. I'm happy to say that by the end of the year, I was able to graduate Jack to Fourth Grade with full confidence that he would be capable of succeeding in all his Upper Elementary classes! The huge smile he gave me when he saw the big A+ on his last report card made my own heart swell with pride for him. He even won the "Most Improved" student award in our little school!
This Spring a study was published about the affects of school closures during the pandemic, and the results were saddening. A third of all the kids who entered grades K-3 during the pandemic were BEHIND in their reading skills. It has long been understood that if an individual child isn't reading fluently by the end of third grade, they will struggle to catch up and are at risk of failure for the rest of their elementary education.
Teachers and schools are doing everything they can to help kids catch up, but many classrooms are overpopulated with kids who need help and overworked teachers who don't have the time to give individual students the one-on-one time as I was lucky to provide Jack.
If you are noticing some negative behaviors, or hearing "I can't do it" from your child, ask them to tell you what is happening at school. Kids who have been tagged as behind in their reading skills need the special attention, but it can also cause a social stigma for kids and make them feel less than their peers. This can have a very negative impact on their self-esteem and self-confidence.
That's where a little help from Mom and Dad can make a huge difference! You don't have to be a trained teacher to support your child's reading development. Here are a few simple things you can do to build your child's confidence and get them caught up:
Put a smile on your face and leave your own frustrations on the counter. Make sure you aren't in a hurry or pushing them. They get enough negativity from their own inner voice telling them they can't read.
Approach reading time with your child as a fun activity to do together. Sit close and make reading a cuddly time. Let them feel your love as you read.
Start with reading TO your child. Don't demand they do the hard work by themselves. Encourage them to pick out words they recognize while you read a favorite book.
Be their biggest cheerleader! Use lots of encouraging phrases and praise like: "You can do it!", "I saw you sound that out - Good Job!", "You did it!" punctuated with hugs and pats on the back. What kid can resist a parent/cheerleader's praise?
Build up their self-esteem and they will build their own reading skills.
Jack and his struggles with reading had a huge influence on my decision to found The Book and Bear Company. We could have been a book subscription box and send great books to kids who love to read, but we wanted to do more.
We noticed when we were doing plush-stuffing birthday parties that the kids absolutely loved hearing a book read to them about the animal they had just built and adopted. And since we wanted to help kids who were finding it challenging to aquire reading skills to see reading in a postive light, we decided to pair books with stuffable animal kits with the hope of reaching the kids who were struggling and give them confience to keep trying.
If we've helped your child enjoy reading, we'd love to hear about it!
Keep reading with your kids and being their biggest cheerleader!
Founder, The Book and Bear Company