Early reading skills generate lifetime value

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Early reading skills generate lifetime value
By LIZ THOMPSON
Tuesday September 9, 2014
This Week News

When I took my daughter for her first day of kindergarten, I was a puddle of tears as I walked out of the school. She had breezed into the classroom and never looked back.

Thirty-five years have passed and I still get goose bumps remembering.

I shouldn’t have been surprised she took on the new situation so easily. Out of necessity, I had to work outside the home since she was about 2 and had placed her either in day care or with a trusted sitter/friend. My crying because I was leaving her in the care of others was nothing new.

By the end of that kindergarten year, the teacher told me she wished she’d had Mary two more weeks because she would have had her reading. She was a caring and dedicated teacher. As her mother, again I was not surprised but was infinitely happy. Reading was part of our lives from her early days.

My sister, Cynthia Slocum, of Westerville is six years younger than me, and my mom said I taught her to read. I don’t remember this but I believe my mom.

The fact my sister went on to be an attorney has nothing to do with my teaching her, which was probably more like coaching and encouraging, but it proves that reading is essential in many aspects of our lives.

Cynthia remembers. It obviously made an impression on her.

“I do remember the exact moment at the library when you were explaining words to me as we were looking at a book, and suddenly it all made sense, as if someone unlocked a magical world,” Cynthia said. “I think it may have even been a Dick and Jane book.”

Teachers say they can see the exact moment when students make that connection to something they were teaching, like a light bulb goes on — the great “Aha!” moment.

I don’t remember learning to read, and I can’t remember a time I didn’t read. The library was a favorite place for me and librarians were always near for assistance.

I was apparently like my daughter and gained that skill young, for which I’m thankful. Cynthia was obviously amenable to learning as well, even from her big sis.

While remembering my daughter’s first day of school as if it were yesterday, I started thinking of teachers who inspired me. As a youth, teachers of various subjects and music instructors filled much of my life.

Elementary school teachers stressed reading daily, and story time was a favorite throughout those years. In middle and high school, besides music, English was a favorite for me with our required reading and book reports. This was before computers to research facts and type papers, mind you.

Reading for pleasure became more possible when my daughter was older, when I had more time. I picked up a newspaper one night when Mary was about 8.

“Mommy, women don’t read the newspaper!” she said.

“Well, Mary, women most certainly do read the newspaper, but usually after all her housework is done,” I replied.

Right then, I started reading in her presence.

With so much press about Common Core and the third-grade reading tests, I began to wonder how hundreds of students reached third grade without someone noticing they weren’t reading, or reading well enough to pass a reading test.

Jane Mixer of Grove City was an elementary school teacher for 24 years in Ohio and Virginia. She taught kindergarten the longest, but also taught grades 1-3.

“Some children are not ready for first grade,” she said. “They may not have matured enough to be able to sit still and follow directions. They’d rather be playing. But having to tell parents their child would benefit from another year of kindergarten was never easy.”

She went on to say that retaining a child in kindergarten is definitely easier than in later grades.

“Reading is so important. It’s individualized. But if a child gets as far as third grade and they can’t read well enough to pass a test, there is a problem,” Mixer said.

“There are no easy answers, but it is the responsibility of the parents and the teachers.”

She said if she taught her students anything, she hopes it was to enjoy learning and being in school while feeling accomplished.

Read with a child. It’s fun and the reward will be great and long-lasting for you both. As my sister said, “It unlocks a magical world.”

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