2017-03-05 / Insight

Educators say parents key to reading success

BY NICHOLAS PUGLIESE
810-452-2601 • npugliese@mihomepaper.com


Annette Thueme’s third grade class in Columbiaville Elementary has regular reading sessions throughout the week, both independently and as groups. Thueme encourages the students to pursue their individual interests through reading — anything from picture books, young adult novels or graphic novels. 
Photo byNicholas Pugliese Annette Thueme’s third grade class in Columbiaville Elementary has regular reading sessions throughout the week, both independently and as groups. Thueme encourages the students to pursue their individual interests through reading — anything from picture books, young adult novels or graphic novels. Photo byNicholas Pugliese COLUMBIAVILLE — The ability to read well is a skill, and like all skills, it takes passion, practice and persistence. As adults, reading, regardless of skill level or voracity, is an ability taken for granted.

Educators in Lapeer County are passionate about teaching Lapeer’s children to read, but even more than that, they try to encourage the love of reading in the students, and to do that, the parents play a key role.

“Reading with your child is really the best way to get a kid to start reading on their own,” said Columbiaville Elementary School third-grade teacher Annette Thueme. “Parents assume their kid will just pick it up. They assume the school will do it.”

Studies show that parents are the key to fostering success in reading from an early age. Greg Matheson, principal of North Branch Elementary, has seen a correlation between children learning to love reading at home and the amount of words read by students each year.

“A struggling reader at the 20 percentile, on average, reads books .7 minutes a day. This adds up to 21,000 words per year. A strong reader at the 80th percentile, on average, reads books 14.2 minutes a day. This adds up to 1,146,000 words per year,” said Matheson. “Though students have a lot on their plate with home and school obligations, we hope they can continue to find the time to pull out a book and read on a daily basis. There are times this can only be made possible through ongoing encouragement and collaboration between parents and educators.”

According to figures from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 26 percent of children who were read to three or four times in the last week by a family member recognized all letters of the alphabet. This is compared to 14 percent of children who were read to less frequently.

To encourage parents to take an active role in fostering reading, educators have suggestions.

“Find a topic they’re interested in, that interest level is huge,” said Thueme. “Especially if they’re struggling — take turns reading, have them read to you, help them with the words.” Thueme described a particular student that struggled with reading and showed little interest in improving. But Thueme noticed the child loved dinosaurs, so she scoured the school library for books on the giant reptiles, and with a little effort, the student discovered the joy of reading.

“Now the kid reads every book about dinosaurs he can find,” said Thueme. “It’s about talking to them, encouraging them.”

Lapeer County’s schools are equipped to work with children of various reading levels, from Thueme’s one-on-one approach to analysis of metadata and trends with students over time. Struggling readers can be identified and plans of action are formulated to discover how best to assist.

Dr. Dina Tallis, director of elementary education with Imlay City Community Schools, considers it a primary goal that all students become excellent readers.

“As we strive to ensure all students are making gains in reading, we focus on continuous improvement models to ensure our processes and instruction are meeting the needs of our students,” said Tallis. “It is our responsibility, our duty, as educators to create a positive climate in which all students receive a fair, equitable, and continuous education, and that we are all part of the solution.”

Tallis identified methods educators use to recognize signs of a student’s reading skill falling behind, and like reading itself, parental involvement is key.

“We believe strongly in parent communication,” said Tallis. “And try to ensure we are communicating and engaging parents and families throughout the process.”

The ability to read is not an isolated skill. As educators and researchers have discovered, reading is the foundation on which all other academic and life skills depend, and without a solid foundation, the remainder of a student’s education will collapse.

Director of curriculum and instruction for North Branch Schools, Amber White, is a voracious reader and recognizes the interconnectedness of reading with other skills.

“As you read, you encounter new information and even more important for our students, it provides imaginative rehearsal for real life situation, that students can learn the consequences of poor/ bad choices through literature,” said White. “If our students exit high school with the confidence, skills, and dispositions to write and devour books for pleasure, there is no doubt in my mind they will be on path for success.”

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