With the first month of school underway, most elementary students are experiencing a new teacher in a new grade with new academic goals. One of the best ways to help children be successful in “school mode” is to encourage reading and literacy building activities—as research shows these activities will contribute to classroom success. As a co-director of MCRR (Minnesota Center for Reading Research) at UMN CEHD, I conduct research on reading and teaching approaches to help boost reading instruction.
Partnering with Target Corporation to Enhance Educational Literacy
We just began our second year of the PRESS Literacy Program through the partnership between MCRR and Target Corporation. Aimed at preparing all Minneapolis Public School students to read by the third grade, PRESS (Path to Reading Excellence in School Sites) provides assistance to kids, teachers and schools through literacy coaches who help students needing an extra boost. After just one year, we’ve seen growth in K-3 student reading assessments and other reading measures. But while students improved, not all readers were able to catch up to peers—which indicates the importance of early intervention for struggling readers.
This year we’re adding extra support for students who have low oral language skills by giving them extra instruction in vocabulary. We see many students able to decode words but not truly understand their meaning. We’re also providing more intervention support to teachers to help them identify ways they can adapt their instruction techniques to reach struggling students—to help sustain PRESS program results. We’ll keep you posted as we partner with the Target Corporation to work together to achieve early literacy for all students.
Seven Ways to Help Kids with Reading
Research shows that fostering a love of reading in young kids is key to raising lifelong learners. The interactions K-3 students have with literacy materials and the adults in their lives are the building blocks for language, reading and writing development. Here are seven simple ways to help boost reading proficiency for school success:
- Create a print-rich environment: of course one of the most obvious—but also most important—ways parents can help boost kids’ literacy is to read! A variety of texts is especially helpful: read non-fiction, stories, fables, mysteries and also newspapers and magazines.
- Share stories: Telling and hearing tales is a fun way to pass on family history, share each other’s day and teach values while building kids’ listening, thinking and even writing skills. Children may one day write the stories in a class project or journal.
- Read beyond bed-time: use meal-prep time to have kids read recipes, grocery shopping to read packages, aisle signs and even coupons. Our everyday lives provide excellent opportunities.
- Have a weekly “library day”: you don’t need to spend a lot of money to buy books to encourage literacy. Both print and e-Books are readily available at the library to help discover new interests and even a sense of community.
- Engage with texts: While reading together, ask questions about what kids think about the story and reactions to certain plots. This will help develop thinking and language skills as well as encourage kids to learn from the materials they read.
- Find a favorite: having a “go-to” book will foster excitement, help identify a topic your child loves and lets your child participate in reading selection.
- Limit TV or video games: They’re attention grabbers—and drainers. In contrast, reading helps calm children, boosts listening skills and attention spans—all of which will help in the classroom. And books can take the imagination on adventures no TV show or video game ever could.
As kids return to school, try to make reading a natural part of family life to cultivate a lifelong reading habit. It’s the best way to ensure they’ll be readers when they grow up, and it will help them be successful in school as well.
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