Beyond the Classroom: Get caught reading!
In a recent report out of the United Kingdom, Cleverdon (2014) found that children who did not enjoy reading by age 11 are more than likely to have fallen behind their peers in school. Cleverdon also found that there was already a gap in early literacy levels by age three. This gap was about a year and a half between low income and high income families. The foundation for literacy is built prior to the school years.
The report mentions, “What happens beyond the school gates and in homes is critical” (Cleverdon, 2014, p. viii). Reading to and with children is important for both parents, but, according to the report, fathers have a great deal of impact after their child has started school. Cleverdon explained, “Children whose fathers read with them less than once a week at the age of five had, by the time they were seven, a reading level half a year behind those who had been read to daily” (Cleverdon, 2014, p. viii). Fathers should be reading role models to their children. According to Cleverdon, “Children whose fathers spend time with them and read with them do better at school, an impact which lasts into adult life” (Cleverdon, 2014, p. 32). Just 10 minutes a day can make a huge difference in your child’s literacy levels.
In my experience there are many children that do not want to be seen as a reader. To them reading is not cool. Cleverdon explains, “being a reader is seen as geeky, uncool and boring to some children” (Cleverdon, 2014, p. 23). Close to 20 percent of children involved in the study said they would be embarrassed if their friends saw them reading. This statistic is a shame. Reading should be something all children enjoy doing. Children that are ages 8-11 who enjoy reading are four times more likely to read at their expected level. Only 6 percent of children who never read out of school read at their expected level. Cleverdon suggests that we need to celebrate the enjoyment of reading in all areas of our community. It is imperative that reading occurs outside of school. Children should not view reading as a school thing. It should be something that we as a community and a family encourage every day.
When children are very young they are building their foundation for literacy. These early experiences prior to school play a pivotal role in their early language development. According to Cleverdon, “A two-year-old’s language development can strongly predict their reading skills on entry into school, as well as their later attainment” (Cleverdon, 2014, p. 25). Income levels play a role in levels of reading. Twenty percent of the children involved in this study from low income families went from advanced at age three to behind at age 11. In contrast, children from higher income families who were behind at age 3 had a greater chance of being advanced by age 11. Poverty and reading levels are linked.
Good schools make an enormous difference in improving literacy levels of all students. At Rugby Public School District, for example, we are using our teacher-collaboration time to focus on literacy in the elementary setting. Our teachers work together on Wednesday mornings to establish precise standards that we expect all children to achieve and master. At Ely Elementary, in particular we have created literacy intervention blocks where teachers and para-professionals work together to meet the needs of all students. At Rugby High School, we continue to improve our student responsibility block (SRB) at the end of the day to meet more needs. During SRB on Friday our students read a book they are interested in. Improving literacy levels should be a job for everyone. Improving literacy cannot solely fall on the school, or the parents. Support also needs to come from the community. We need to make reading cool and support our young children in developing a strong foundation of early language development. Modeling is one of the best things we can do as a community and as a parent. Find a good book from our local library and get caught reading by your children, friends or community members.
Source: Cleverdon, J. D. (2014). Read on. Get on. London: Save the Children.
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