Seven years old. It used to be called the “age of reason”, whatever the hell that means. It surely isn’t true. Seven year old kids say, do and think everything but reasonable. It really is a great age and a crucial time in the learning stage. Seven year olds are in the second grade. Studies show if these kids go into third grade below “reading standards”, there’s a good chance they will have no chance of ever catching up. We need to teach them to learn to read so they can read to learn. Seven years old in second grade is the crucial time.
My city K-8 school district has 36,000 kids distributed throughout 33 elementary and 8 junior highs. There are a lot of second graders in that huge mix with reading difficulties, just like most school districts of any size. We have a Community Volunteer Reading program that is showing great results.
Basically a volunteer tutor/reader spends one hour with four individual kids for 15 minutes each. When we started the program four years ago, there were only 30 or 40 adults covering the entire district. The ideal strategy was to spend 15 minutes per day for at least 4 days a week with each slow reader. We just didn’t have the manpower. I tried doing two days a week that first year and so did a few of the other volunteers. Each year, when the parents see our results we have doubled and even tripled our volunteer reading tutors.
The second grade I volunteer my time with has 3 groups of 4 kids that are helped every day Monday through Thursday. I can only speak for my 4 kids that I see every Wednesday morning. They are a joy to watch and listen to. These kids came to me in September testing at kindergarten levels. I don’t know why. Maybe their parents never read to them or got them excited about learning. But all we have to do is help one child for 15 minutes a day and they become instant blooming flowers of reading.
Today I was told I’m losing one precious little gal because, even though she was reading below 1st grade level in September, she has just tested at 3.6 That means she is now reading at the level of a second semester third grader. Isn’t that incredible?
We volunteers are all amazed at how fast kids can learn when they just have a little one on one attention.
All we have to do is show them how to sound out syllables and use some flash cards and have fun reading.
If I had another life to live, it would be as a teacher. There is nothing more important for our society.