“Don’t worry,” my son’s second-grade teacher was saying to me. “He’ll catch on.”
I sipped my coffee and nodded, but I felt like a zombie. Maybe she was right. His reading comprehension assignment had, once again, come back with lots of corrections, even though we had worked on it all night.
Playing the waiting game isn't an effective strategy when it comes to gaps in early literacy. What children actually need instead, sometimes even as early as kindergarten, is a program that intervenes early.
My son had been struggling with the basics of literacy since kindergarten. I could feel his reading confidence draining. In its place were embarrassment and a growing reluctance to read and write.
My son's journal. I can read most of it...
“Sure,” she dismissed, with a wave of her hand. “I see it all the time. Some kids are just not natural readers. It affects their ability to be good spellers. And there’s nothing you can really do.”
She made it sound like he was doomed. I imagined him as a middle-aged adult, struggling to spell the word friend, repeating “i before e, except after c” mnemonically in his head, over and over.
Fiends...or is it freinds...or friends...
“There’s nothing I can do?” I asked. “What about more reading? More books or apps?” I found it hard to believe.
His teacher smiled and leaned forward. “It takes longer for some kids to catch on,” she said gently.
“Sometimes you just have to wait and see.”
The Wait-and-See Approach
As I walked out of our conference, I replayed the conversation.
Struggling with literacy—for life?
Did I really just hear that my second-grader might struggle forever?
And then a very real thought popped into my head:
Why would I want to wait and see what happens?
I needed to intervene now, at this very moment!
After all, the wait-and-see approach is what we do when things don’t matter.
It’s what we do when we think our air conditioner might be going out or if we think we might have a cold. But when it comes to educating a child, it’s certainly better to be proactive, right?
So, I tried to take matters into my own hands. After all, I'm a certified teacher with years of experience in the educational realm. Like a boss, I called for immediate action:
- I hired a tutor to come to our house twice a week.
- I spent hundreds of dollars on practice workbooks.
- I sent my son to a summer writing workshop.
- We read the maximum number of hours during a Book Challenge.
- We played spelling games on the computer.
- I maxed out the space on my phone with as many reading apps as I could buy.
But wait...we were still struggling...
After all that intervention with no results to speak of, I was left wondering:
- What would have happened if my son's teachers intervened when he was in kindergarten...when those "kindergarten readiness" gaps were identified in the first place?
- What do other parents do, especially those that aren't afforded the same kind of past teaching experience and financial resources that I was fortunate enough to have?!?!
How Problems Emerge
That’s how wait-and-see patterns emerge. While teachers and parents are waiting, basic literacy skills may unknowingly slip further and further through the cracks.
It’s common sense that a kindergartener has smaller and more manageable gaps in foundational skills than a third or fourth grader, and research backs this up. In his book, Reading: The Core Skill, Richard Allington talks about the needs of children as early readers—how children should be able to read accurately by third grade, but in order to do that, they first need to:
- understand what they read.
- listen and participate in shared reading.
- hear fluent adults read aloud.
- write (or draw, or scribble) something meaningful to them.
- talk with peers about what they read and write.
When early childhood classrooms don’t check these benchmarks, it's a breeding ground for gaps in foundational skills. (Allington, 2011).
Unfortunately, it’s really common. But what if we could change that? What if administrators made intervening earlier their most important priority?
- The gaps likely wouldn’t be so large and overwhelming for children who have spent years struggling with reading.
- Administrators could spend less time and money on intervention in third and fourth grade.
- Children in kindergarten and first grade could get intervention that’s extremely targeted and effective—and maybe even fun…
A targeted, daily intervention program for young readers needs to follow some basic principles:
It's daily. The more often children get intervention, the better off they are. Daily is best. Three times a week is okay. Anything less is not really that effective.
|It's quick and brief. The wealth of knowledge we can download to our students is vast and intensive. But intervention that’s long winded can actually take away from learning. Why? Because young children—especially those who struggle—engage more when lessons are short and paced appropriately for developing attention spans.|
It's targeted. This was my eureka. How can anyone intervene if they don’t know what the gaps are? And once they know what the gaps are, how do they laser-focus to seal each gap?
|It revolves around assessment and reteaching. It all goes back to assessment. A successful program has a solid assessment and testing system built in. The assessments are ongoing—they never quit. Once assessments happen, the instruction revolves around them and adjusts as children grow. (Allington, 2011)|
L-o-v-e still spells love, even if the “e” is backwards.
Ready to Read with Kindervention
Education can be an uphill trek at times, leaving us winded and searching for the right path. When it comes to our struggling students, the path can be especially challenging. That’s why it’s a good idea to stay one step ahead—never to “wait and see.”
Let us show you how Ready to Read with Kindervention can help. If you’re interested in learning about my favorite intervention program, fill out the form below!