Proficient in Reading by Grade 4!…WHO CARES!?

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Gotcha. Of course, just about everybody cares, for a range of reasons…but not everybody. A HUGE number of the KIDS don’t care.oh-the-places-youll-go

…and that’s a massive problem for us and an even bigger one for them.

Proficient reading is a marvelous accomplishment of which children should not just be proud, but also be glad. It is actually necessary, but not sufficient for children to be able to read on grade level by Grade 4. Long before, and long after that pivotal year, they have to WANT to read as well. If not, they either won’t get to “grade level,” or reading will never end up bringing all of its riches into their lives.

Let me offer an analogy. I have a friend that is an accomplished pilot. He’s so good that he used to teach aerobatics at a flight school. He can fly lots of different beautiful airplanes. He can go anywhere in the world, really…

But he doesn’t fly.

It’s not that he chooses not to fly, he just doesn’t choose to fly. He invested in training and gathering experience and developed expertise with a substantial financial outlay. He honed his skills through hundreds of hours of practice and preparation which got him the credential he wanted at the time. However, it turns out, he doesn’t NEED the credential really, because he never chooses to fly anymore. He’s moved on to other enthusiasms.

Hey! It’s his life, he can do … or not do… what he wants. It’s not like he has anyplace he HAS to go. No harm, really.

Kids however, DO have places to go. We spend a tremendous amount of money and years of time ensuring that children learn to read so they can GO be successful students, citizens, coworkers, and parents. 

The entire point … the ENTIRE POINT of teaching children to read is not for some test. It’s that it positions our children to grow and to GO. Lifelong readers are lifelong learners. Those who can read AND choose to read will continue to develop beyond their years of formal education. They are positioned to joyfully create new ways to contribute to themselves, their families and their communities.

So, who cares about whether the average kid can read? Almost everybody!

Who cares about whether kids DO read? Sadly, careful observation of school websites and media reports might leave us all scratching our heads and wondering if anybody really cares. 

KIDS have to CARE about every opportunity to choose READING. The research is clear. Kids who choose to read, read better (of course!) They have larger vocabularies, better command of complex syntax, write better and read better. Plus they are the ones that blow the tops off the omnipresent tests and often breeze through school without a hitch.

But, ALL kids must learn to select delightful (for them) books and choose to read them whenever they can, or we’ve wasted our money and our time and their childhoods effectively on teaching them to fly without having taught them all of the fantastic places they can choose to “go” … or how much fun it is to have those adventures.

2 Responses to “Proficient in Reading by Grade 4!…WHO CARES!?”

  1. Ngozi Obofukoro March 22, 2014 at 3:21 am #

    I find your commentary on reading very interesting. I teach grade one children who have an appreciable amount of interest in reading. The challenge like you pointed out is that many of these children will not read unless they are prodded to do so. I have noticed though that when the boys have to read a book about their favourite characters, there is an increased enthusiasm. My question therfore is: do you think that schools should allow some liberty in the children’s choice of reading texts within the recommended curriculum? Do you think this concession will spark up the required level of interest a child should have in reading?

    • Mark Condon March 24, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

      Excellent question! The research on this is clear. Children who are given choice in what they read, read more…and children who read more, end up reading better. Happily, most curricula don’t require kids to read certain books outside of the structured lesson, but even when they do there still MUST be plenty of time dedicated to free choice reading. Otherwise the children will certainly never become fully fluent and predictably will not choose to read outside of school. When that combination happens we’ve failed. If I had to choose one (and happily I don’t) I’d go for them being below grade level, but excited to read over being at grade level and uninterested in picking up a book.