Asheville Citizen Times
June 18, 2011
The tipping point for many children in our country occurs not when they’re 21 or 30, but when they are eight! If children are not at grade level in reading by the third grade, the probability increases that by the time they are teens they will have dropped out of school and/or fallen into substance abuse, premature pregnancy, juvenile crime, etc. If you don’t believe this, consider the following: state planners are known to use third grade reading scores to predict the number of future prison beds the state will need 10 years down the road (Washington Post, July 6, 2004).
The ability to read proficiently is important to a child’s future because the nature of the U.S. economy changed dramatically in the 1990s; skills became more important than hard work, background, or whatever previously had made for a successful life. Research tells us that the skills associated with reading and math now trump ethnicity and poverty as the most powerful predictors of success in life (Tough, 2009). Children who read well tend to finish school, complete college, and compete successfully for good jobs in our hi-tech world. However, unfortunately for some children, this race to the top begins before they ever reach the starting line. In their research, Betty Hart and Todd Risley (1995) found that by age 3, children from high-literacy homes have heard 30 million words and have a vocabulary of 1,000 words, whereas children from low-literacy homes have heard only 10 million words and have a vocabulary of only 525 words. The language environment in these impoverished homes means these children are greatly disadvantaged when entering kindergarten and their chances of catching up are very slim. The good news is that research also shows that with extra learning opportunities children’s ability to grasp language can be improved dramatically and they can overcome their early handicap.
A new Asheville non-profit now provides free reading assistance to underachieving children. Called Read to Succeed Asheville, we recruit and train volunteer reading coaches to work with children, one-on-one in elementary schools, twice per week in 45 minutes sessions. Our coaches use a multi-sensory phonics approach effective with children from low-literacy homes. Before the training, coaches are matched with an underachieving student and they meet his/her parents at a social event to help them form a “teaching team.” Training occurs over six weeks and includes meetings on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons as well as practicum sessions with students on three Saturday mornings.
The next Read to Succeed training starts on August 16. If you are interested, or simply want additional information, contact Julie Sherman at 828-251-4949 (firstname.lastname@example.org). Please turn an hour and a half a week of your time into a lifetime of opportunity for an Asheville child.