Reading and writing are necessary for learning, but children sometimes struggle as they attempt to conquer literacy skills.
It’s a battle that can take a toll in the long-term: Research shows that students who read significantly below grade level in third grade typically struggle throughout their school years and have a greater likelihood of dropping out of school. (Read Education Week’s Early Grades Crucial in Path to Reading Proficiency for more information.)
Children’s efforts to achieve literacy can be compromised by several factors, including both physical and mental conditions (e.g., preterm birth requiring placement in a neonatal intensive care unit, chronic ear infections, fetal alcohol syndrome, cerebral palsy), developmental disorders (e.g., autism, mental retardation), poverty, and a family history of language or literacy disabilities.
Experts say early intervention is the key to helping a student win the battle, and schools have a number of tools to use.
One program designed to help struggling learners is Response to Intervention (RtI).
RtI is designed to address problems early, before a child has fallen so far behind that a referral to special education services is necessary. RtI is most commonly used to address problems in reading and math, but it can also be used in other subject areas. An RtI system has three “tiers,” each providing a different level of support.
- Tier I: All students receive high quality curriculum and instruction in the regular education classroom. The teacher assists all learners.
- Tier II: The school provides interventions to students who need more support than they are receiving from the general curriculum.
- Tier III: Students are given individualized instruction.
To learn more about RtI, read the National Association of School Psychologists’ informative resource, Response to Intervention: A Primer for Parents.
State law also requires that schools provide Academic Intervention Services (AIS) to students who are struggling to meet the learning standards in English language arts and mathematics in grades K-12 and social studies and science in grades 4-12.
Services include extra instructional time to help students achieve the learning standards in the subject areas requiring AIS, and support services to help students overcome barriers that are affecting their ability to learn, such as attendance problems, family-related issues, discipline problems and health-related issues. Support services might include school guidance and counseling services to improve attendance and coordination of services provided by other agencies.
AIS would be provided to a student who does not achieve the state-designated performance level on an elementary, intermediate or commencement-level state assessment in English language arts, mathematics, social studies or science. In addition, a student could receive AIS if a district determines he/she is at risk of not meeting state standards.
For more information, see Academic Intervention Services, an informative guide developed by the New York State United Teachers and New York State PTA.
So how can you, as a parent, be involved?
Be an active participant in your child’s education. If you believe your child is having difficulty in an academic area and nothing has been put in place by the school, reach out to the classroom teacher or, if necessary, the building principal. Ask if the school has an RtI process (or a similar procedure and how you can be involved.
Support learning at home. How? Make reading an everyday habit at home. Monitor and assist with homework assignments. Communicate with your child’s teacher. Attend parent/teacher conferences about your child as well as other school meetings. Learn more about the interventions being used at your child’s school. Share your child’s successes.
Reading is Fundamental has great ideas on creating a literate environment, Literacy Development Begins at Home, With a Literate Home Environment.
IS A CHILD AT-RISK?
There are several early signs that can indicate a child is at risk for problems learning to read and write. These include:
- Persistent baby talk
- Lack of interest in or appreciation for nursery rhymes
- Lack of interest or appreciate for shared book reading
- Difficulty understanding simple directions
- Difficulty learning (or remembering) names of letters
- Failure to recognize or identify letters in his/her own name.
The National Association of School Psychologists offers more information on Response to Intervention (RtI)
Check out a free literacy program offered by the National Parent Teacher Association. The PTA Family Reading Experience, Powered by Kindle includes a set of free activities and tools in English and Spanish to organize events that engage the entire family in improving reading skills for students between kindergarten and fifth grade.
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