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TOY Stories Blog: Parents are key to help struggling readers succeed

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By Mary Bailey

We’ve all heard the saying, “reading is fundamental.” As a Reading Recovery teacher who works with students who are already falling behind their peers by first grade, I can safely say this statement couldn’t be more true. A firm foundation in reading creates a baseline from which students can meet the challenges they will face as they progress from one grade to the next. They need that foundation early; it’s a building block for moving on to more advanced concepts that demand greater comprehension.

The Reading Recovery program provides intensive, one-on-one intervention to first graders having extreme difficulty with early reading and writing. As a Reading Recovery teacher for over a decade, I have found that the best way to help struggling students enhance their reading skills is to provide each learner with individualized instruction based on their specific strengths and weaknesses – something I do with my students each school day.

What I’ve found to be equally important is getting parents involved too. Strengthening the connection between school and home, and reinforcing the foundational skills students are learning in the classroom, are vitally important. Who better to provide learning that fits a child’s unique needs than their very own parent or guardian?

Involving parents, keeping them up to date on their child’s progress, and providing strategies to use at home makes a huge difference in the success of students in Reading Recovery. Here are some tips that have worked well over time:

  • I encourage parents to read to their children, or listen to their children read three to four books each night. The books should get progressively more difficult as the child’s understanding grows.
  • When parents and children read together, ask questions like, “Did that make sense? Did that sound right? Did that look right?” Go back and reread any sections that cause confusion.
  • Spend a good deal of time just talking together, showing your child the correct use of language.
  • Parents are also invited to come to lessons and see the instruction we are providing during the school day, which they can emulate back at home.

Together we can build up a child’s confidence, firm up what they do know, and watch new learning take place every day.

A parent is a child’s first teacher and I am always thankful for their participation. They are true partners in the progress their child makes. Together we are moving these students from where they are to something much greater.

Mary Bailey served as the Charles County Teacher of the Year for 2013-14.


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