Guest blog by Rian Meadows of Tallahassee, Fla.
It is Celebrate Literacy Week, Florida! Each year, we dedicate seven days to recognizing and encouraging the journey of literacy for Florida’s children.
Reading opens up a world of thoughts and experiences. It introduces us to new people and places – past, present and even future. The simple ability to read opens doors and opportunities that every child deserves.
As a history teacher, I am excited to share my passion for reading with my students. Through reading, my students are not only able to learn about the topics we study, they are strengthening a fundamental skill that will help them succeed in school and in life.
As the mother of three kindergarteners, I’m excited to watch my children discover the joy of reading. Parents play such a critical role in helping children develop a lifelong love for reading. One of the most important things parents can do to support their children’s academic growth is to know if your child is reading on his or her grade level, especially in the early grades.
Literacy is the key that unlocks learning. Without it, students face a limited future.
As educators, we know that before third grade students are learning to read, but after third grade they need to be able to read in order to learn. Children who are not reading proficiently in third grade are four times more likely to dropout or fail to graduate from high school. For poor black and Hispanic students, the likelihood increases to eight times. Whether or not a child can read by fourth grade may well set the tone for his or her entire life.
We are lucky to live in Florida, where there is a strong emphasis on early reading. In the 1990s, Florida was in the middle of an illiteracy crisis. So state and education leaders developed a plan to focus on early literacy beginning in kindergarten.
That effort changed everything. Since 1998, our fourth graders have advanced two grade levels in reading. In fact, on the 2011 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, no education system scored higher than Florida!
We have seen remarkable change in classrooms and schools across the state, because teachers are inspiring students and parents are engaged in their children’s learning. Florida’s K-3 reading policies clearly define reading goals, so parents and teachers can monitor their students’ progress. If a student needs more help or is falling behind, parents and teachers will know and can step in immediately. These early interventions make sure little problems in kindergarten or first grade don’t snowball into a lifelong struggle.
I was a struggling reader when I was young. But a very caring teacher intervened and made a huge difference in my life. We all have different strengths and weaknesses, and I am so grateful that my teacher addressed my weakness and helped me turn it into a strength.
So, this week, develop a plan to help the children in your life become successful readers. That may start with dusting off your bookshelf or heading down to your local library to share a good book with a budding bookworm. I know my Celebrate Literacy Week, Florida! will include lots of reading from the Magic Tree House Series, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Rian Meadows has taught history, government and economics for Florida Virtual School and is presently working with districts for online learning. She is the mother of kindergarten-aged triplets in Tallahassee, Fla.