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The Importance of Teaching Early Childhood Reading

 June 30, 2020

By  Cheryl Jerabek

If you think the majority of school children in the United States know how to read on-level, you may be surprised. When the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, tested a wide group of fourth graders, the shocking truth was revealed. Only 62% had reading abilities within the acceptable range.[1]

That adds up to the grim fact that an astounding 38% of all grade four children do NOT possess a passing basic-level reading score. So...what’s the problem?

The scale used to gauge children’s reading skills within the United States has a maximum score of 500. The average for fourth graders is set at 217 while eighth-graders are 264. Twelfth graders are expected to read at 291.

For fourth-graders, the NAEP has divided the scores into three categories. Advanced readers are those who rank at 268. Proficient readers score 238 and Basic readers come in at 208.

The NAEP has specific guidelines for student performance on the Basic level that is expected to determine their overall understanding and comprehension of the material. The NAEP agrees that students who are at the Basic level should at least be able to comprehend age-appropriate material and be advanced enough to make relatively easy connections that have to do with experiences they have had of their own. NAEP also attests the students should be capable of simple reasoning with the material that is presented too.

Tragically, there is more than one-third of all fourth-grade students who are below the Basic level in their reading. If your child is among them, Phonemic Awareness might be a viable solution because it boosts a child’s spelling and reading abilities. After reviewing almost 2000 case studies, the National Reading Panel has declared that phonemic and phonic awareness does indeed promote superior results in reading than whole language programs.

There is a myriad of advantages and benefits that children reap when they are taught to read with phonemic and phonics early in their lives. The accelerated reading development advantages the little ones learn to follow them through school. On the flip side, when children don’t learn to read well early on, the problems they face are also with them throughout their school years.

A study was conducted in Sweden that found students in the fourth grade who scored low on their entry exams scored below the average level on reading tests.[2] The research also indicated that kids who showed little or no interest in story and book reading before the age of 5 had low scores on fourth-grade sentence reading tests. While this is merely a single test, many others have rendered the same outcome as well. The conclusion is obvious. Parents need to expose their youngsters to reading and books at a very early age.

What exactly is the best age to introduce your child to reading? It is never too early to begin cultivating your little one’s interest in reading and books right out of the womb. Of course, a newborn won’t know what a book is and won’t be able to understand what you are saying, but all the same, reading to him or she helps to awaken a love for stories and books.

As your child gets older, you’ll have even more opportunities to encourage a keen interest in reading. Avoid the temptation of sticking your youngster in front of the television set to watch cartoons and read a storybook instead. Make storytime fun. Have regular reading times, like naptime and bedtime.

Keep age-appropriate storybooks accessible throughout the house. When you do this, you’ll see that they will naturally grab them. Before they can read, they will pretend they are. This is the exciting beginning of a true “love story” with books.

Typically, people tend to consider kindergarten or first grade to be the time that is appropriate for kids to learn to read. Often it is when they are taught, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s the best time. The ideal approach is for children to be aware of phonemics before entering kindergarten. Children who have an undeniable upper-edge in school that those who aren’t familiar with phonemics and reading don’t have.

Once a child enters the school system, many parents feel it is the teacher’s duty to take over to teach their child to read. While it is part of their responsibility, if you want your child to excel in school, the best time for your child to learn to read is long before they walk through the school doors. Those who are already acquainted with reading and phonemics are proven to have a much easier time learning in general. That is not just initially. It is throughout their school years. That’s a long time!

The biggest issue with a child learning to read before kindergarten is that the responsibility doesn’t belong to the teacher in that case. It falls on the parents. Many parents are not comfortable with teaching phonemics to their children for one reason or another. Some think they are not qualified. Others have little time in their already packed schedule. While these reasons against teaching their child to read are all legitimate, there are solutions. Early childhood reading programs are set up to accommodate busy, unqualified parents so they can go beyond their situations to give their child a head-start, regardless.

Are you a parent who longs to teach your young child to read because you know it is one of the best gifts you can give your little one, but are feeling insecure about doing so? Do you worry that your life is too busy to fit in lessons? Perhaps you are concerned that your child isn’t ready to sit still long enough to learn. All of those obstacles are very real. But, they can be overcome. By deciding on at least check into teaching your young child to read, you are taking a huge step. You may be pleasantly surprised at how easy the rest falls into place.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive and proven program, check out this one.

We’ve also written about another program.

References:

1. NAEP 1998 Reading Report Card for the Nation and the States, March 1999
Authors: Patricia L. Donahue, Kristin E. Voelkl, Jay R. Campbell, and John Mazzeo

2. J Learn Disabil. 1999 Sep-Oct;32(5):464-72.
Early language development and kindergarten phonological awareness as predictors of reading problems: from 3 to 11 years of age.
Olofsson A, Niedersøe J.
Department of Psychology, Umeå University, Sweden.

Cheryl Jerabek


Cheryl Jerabek lives in a tiny remote town in Southwestern Colorado. She writes full-time from her cabin nestled in the mountains. She often expresses how lucky she feels to be able to do what she loves from a setting that looks like a postcard. When she’s not writing, Cheryl loves hanging out with her husband and two grown children, her dog, Joe, and adores spending time with her three grandchildren.

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