By Elizabeth Goussetis
Parents of beginning readers often ask what they can do to help their child learn to read.
“When they find out what area their child needs help on, their first question is always ‘what can I do at home?’” said Mia Broward, a Title 1 intervention specialist at Herbert Mills Elementary.
With the state’s new third grade reading guarantee taking effect this year, school districts are prohibited from passing 3rd grade students on to the 4th grade if they are not reading at grade level. One thing Reynoldsburg schools are doing to help is providing parents with tools they can use to work with their kids at home through a series of workshops. The final two workshops of the school year will be held March 12 and March 20.
“The more (kids) read, the more successful readers they will be” said Nicole Weyandt, a speech-language pathologist at Herbert Mills.
“We can’t be the only ones who teach their child reading skills. We don’t have enough hours in the days to give them enough practice at school,” Broward said.
Beyond reading, there are techniques parents can use to help their kids. Screening tests provide parents with a report to let them know which areas their child is struggling with so they can focus on those areas. The workshops give parents specific activities to do with their kids. Younger readers need to learn the letter sounds and then they can move on to practicing breaking short words up into separate sounds. Older readers can practice reading fluency by reading a favorite book out loud over and over again until they get comfortable reading aloud fluidly, the way they would talk.
“A lot of parents said they wished they’d known about it earlier for their kids who are older,” Broward said of the workshops.
At a recent workshop, parents made folded origami “cootie catchers”, or “fortune tellers,” filled with reading comprehension questions parents can ask while reading with their older kids. Younger readers can use letter flash cards to build words or stack styrofoam cups with letters on them. A popular activity is covering a table with shaving cream and drawing words in the foam.
“It just makes it more fun than paper and pencil and they have it at home, it’s inexpensive,” said Broward.
Results of the October screening showed that 63.4 percent of Reynoldsburg third graders were proficient or above. Of those students who did not meet the standards, 15.7 percent were classified as having basic proficiency, and 20.9 were classified as limited”proficiency, according to data collected by the Ohio Department of Education.
Jana Alig, the administrator responsible for school improvement and accountability for the district, said Reynoldsburg has strategies to prepare for the new standards, including training for teachers and parents, diagnostic screening and interventions. Some, like the diagnostic screening, was already in place prior to the new law.
“The state says we have to do it one time per year; we do it three times a year because it’s best practice,” Alig said of the screenings.
Alig said the district is working on plans to offer summer school for 2nd and 3rd grade students, which would likely be required for those 3rd grade students who don’t meet the standards by the end of the school year. Summer school would also give those students another chance to pass the test before the start of the next school year.
“Anytime you extend learning into the summer, I think that will help us tremendously,” said Alig.
Summer school would be held in one place with transportation provided from all of the elementary schools. Students who attend would be able to receive school breakfast and lunch. Alig said she believes, because of the added efforts, Reynoldsburg will be sending more proficient students on to 4th grade this year compared with last year.
“I think we’re going to have a higher number of students on target that reach the benchmarks, Alig said.
Resources for parents of struggling readers
Early Literacy Workshops:
•March 12, 6-8 p.m. for parents of early or emerging readers at Waggoner Road Middle School cafeteria.
•March 20, 6-8 p.m. for parents of independent readers at Hannah Ashton Middle School cafeteria.
•Parents can find puzzles, games, reading tips and exercises on the Reynoldsburg City Schools Early Literacy Resources page: www.reyn.org/EarlyLiteracyResources.aspx