Knowing how to read well (“literacy”) is the key to success in our nation today. People with higher literacy skills have higher salaries and employment rates, lower public assistance rates, and lower crime rates than people with lower literacy skills. Literacy skills are key in determining whether a student will graduate from high school, attend and graduate from college, and achieve future success in the workforce.
A generation ago, literacy skills, a high school diploma, and a college degree weren’t as important as they are today because our economy was built on agriculture and manufacturing. However, we now live in a globally competitive economy with more jobs that require advanced learning and higher literacy skills. Thus, the ability to read is critical to a child’s success in school, lifelong earning potential and overall ability to contribute to the nation’s work force as an adult.
Students who fall behind in the early grades have a harder time catching up, making it particularly important to identify struggling students early. Fortunately, Iowa’s educational community has taken steps to ensure that this occurs. Iowa’s Area Education Agencies (AEAs), in cooperation with the Iowa Department of Education and local school districts are working together to ensure that all Iowa kindergarten through sixth grade students are tested three times a year (fall, winter and spring) to screen for reading achievement. Teachers can then use the information produced from the test to adjust teaching strategies and provide extra support to increase student’s odds of success.
How can you increase your child’s reading skills at home? Peggy Gisler, Ed.S. and Marge Eberts, Ed.S. share these tips for parents.
- Set aside regular time to read with your child every day–no matter their age!
- Surround your children with reading materials.
- Have a family reading time. Establish a 15-30 minute span of time when everyone reads together.
- Encourage a wide variety of reading activities–road signs, weather reports and movie time listings all make great chances to explore text.
- Develop the library habit. Take your child to the library and let him/her explore and choose freely.
- Be knowledgeable about your child’s reading progress. Stay in touch with your child’s teacher and work together to shore up any challenges your child may be having as early as possible.
- Watch for challenges at home. You are your child’s first teacher and know your child best. If you believe your child is struggling, let your child’s school know right away.
- Get excited about your child’s progress! Your reaction has a great influence on how hard your child will try to become a strong reader.
For more information about early reading and support that can be given to your child at home, contact your child’s teacher or Area Education Agency 267 at 1-800-542-8375. The Iowa Reading Research Center also has an incredible website with tips for parents!
Kim Swartz is the Assistant Director of Educational Services with Area Education Agency 267. She can be reached at 800-735-1539. Area Education Agency 267 serves over 65,000 students. In addition, over 5,000 educators rely on AEA 267 for services in special education, school technology, media and instructional/curriculum support. The agency’s service area reaches 18 counties and nearly 9,000 square miles.