It is no secret that parents are still anxious about their child(ren)’s academic performance.
According to the National Assessment of Student Progress, since 2017, there has been a downward trend in the percentage of fourth graders reading at a proficient level.. For eighth graders, the percentage of students reading proficiently is the lowest since 2007.
So it would be natural for parents to be caught between two competing pressures for their children: Not to fail, and to try to catch up with the potential for success.
And, when combined with the pressure to help a child understand and digest common core standards, all while trying to work and manage the non-academic affairs of the family, the demands can be quite overwhelming. But parents are not and should not be expected to be licensed teachers. Every effort you make, no matter how small it seems, does help. It really is OK to take baby steps. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember to stop, pause, and take a breath.
What else can you do? Here are just a few strategies to ensure the baby steps are moving in the right direction. These strategies fall under two categories: Setting grade-appropriate expectations and linking everyday strategies to those expectations.
In order to reduce potential frustration for you and your child(ren), it is important to know what skills they are required to learn during the school day.
We want to avoid pressuring them to learn information that is not directly aligned with their school day lessons — it adds obligation and stress. We also want to reduce frustration for teachers, who often welcome home support for the skills they are teaching in the classroom. Below are some of the K-3 skills that will directly support both your child(ren) and their teachers:
Kindergarteners: Alphabet recognition is essential. Knowing upper and lowercase letters is the foundation for recognizing words and beginning to read. As kindergarteners recognize all their letters, it is appropriate to move on to rhyming words, vowel sounds, and blending sounds together.
First-graders: Review kindergarten skills, and then focus on helping first-graders understand how various combinations of consonants make sounds. Review common grade-level words, and expose them to a number of regularly spelled one-syllable words to enhance recognition. Then help them form syllables by showing them that every syllable needs a vowel.
Second-graders: Review kindergarten and first-grade skills to determine if there are any skills that they have not already acquired. Then move on to helping second-graders figure out two-syllable words. From there, you can help a second-grader by helping them identify common prefixes and suffixes. These are the building blocks necessary to support reading comprehension and reading fluently.
Third-graders: Review K-2 skills. Third-graders should know prefixes and suffixes to figure out words with more than one syllable and words they have never seen before. Third-graders should be able to read fluently, identify different types of reading materials, comprehend the stories they read, and form opinions about key points in a story.
Linking Skills to Everyday Activities
Here are some everyday activities that we can use as teachable activities:
Favorite foods and activities: What letter does the food/activity start with? What other words start with this same letter? What sounds are in the word? What other words sound like this word?
Favorite activities and games: What blends of two letters help us make this word? How many syllables are in this word? What other words have these blends of letters, the same vowel sounds, or number of syllables?
These same principles can be applied to our child(ren)’s favorite shows on television or the internet, or the things that make our child(ren) happy.
It is acceptable for children to start reading as early as kindergarten. However, parents can best help by helping their child(ren) master the foundations that support reading comprehension.
Once those skills are mastered, then it is appropriate to move on to helping your child(ren) identify strategies for determining the “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “why,” and “how.” And when those overwhelming feelings set in, remember — every little bit helps. And children are more likely to master skills when we find ways to link those skills to the activities and items that they love.
Dr. Tracee Perryman is the author of “Elevating Futures: A Model For Empowering Black Elementary Student Success.” She also is the CEO and co-founder of Center of Hope Family Services and developed the award-winning, comprehensive after-school educational program ELEVATE. A thought leader known for empowering people to engage with their communities and inspire change, Dr. Perryman partners with government and not-for-profit organizations, foundations, and leaders in education to realize results rooted in evidence-based programming.
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