“Grade Level” Not Good Enough

Parents, hearing their child read haltingly from books at home, sometimes take their concerns to a teacher, only to be told

Don’t worry! Your child is reading at grade level.

Children grades two and up should be able to read with a pleasant cadence and with obvious understanding, not ploddingly, one word at a time. If they cannot, their parents are right to be concerned.Most public school reading programs use limited-vocabulary materials with lots of pictures. Children taught by the phonics-poor methods of reading instruction that dominate American public education learn to rely on their recognition of memorized “sight words” and their ability to guess context from pictures. They may be able to breeze through their grade level texts, but be stymied by library books written at their level of understanding.

Politicians and public school officials talk a lot about “excellence,” but the truth is that public education is geared towards minimum competency.

The children who succeed in exceeding the minimum are usually the ones who have at least one adult in their lives who is monitoring their progress and providing encouragement and supplemental instruction along the way.

An extract from a basal reader is not the best test of a child’s reading ability. If your third-grader is bringing home A’s and B’s in reading, but can’t read Kipling’s Just So Stories with understanding and enjoyment, you’d better intervene–fast.

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