To the Editor:
There has indeed been an uptick in policy and advocacy toward the goal of getting more children reading on grade level by the end of 3rd grade, as described in “P-2 Years Targeted to Achieve Grade 3 Reading Proficiency” (Education Week, July 13, 2011).
Researchers and educators have known for years that 3rd grade reading proficiency is a critical milestone as children move to more-challenging learning tasks and must be able to comprehend, and apply, what they are reading across subject areas. More attention is rightly being paid to the importance of high-quality preschool programs, like one in Bremerton, Wash., that put children on the path to reading.
Early-education advocates are also aware that learning begins at birth, and that learning can be advanced by the healthy physical and social-emotional development of a child. In addition to formal early-education interventions, we must ensure that children reach all of the essential developmental milestones, beginning at birth, to get them ready for school and future academic success.
Those early-years experiences—which start with parents talking with their children and reading with them every day—lay the foundations children need to become skilled and avid readers later on. We need an approach that values and integrates the role of family, schools, and community providers.
In Connecticut, a number of communities are working to better align programs and services to ensure healthy social, physical, and cognitive development for all of our children along the continuum from birth through 3rd grade. The New Britain Early Childhood Collaborative, for example, launched a Campaign for Grade-Level Reading last fall, in partnership with the local school district, to bring together parents, child-care providers, and social service agencies to dramatically improve literacy. With two-thirds of New Britain’s 4th graders unable to read on grade level, this issue is essential to the very future of this community, and equally important to many other communities across the country.
It is important to make 3rd grade reading proficiency a priority in K-12 education policy, while also taking steps to attend to the early developmental issues that are critical predictors of a child’s success in school.
William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund
The William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund provides support to the New Britain Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. The project also receives support from the Children’s Fund of Connecticut, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Connecticut Department of Education.
A version of this article appeared in the August 10, 2011 edition of Education Week as Early Reading Intervention Makes Crucial Difference