Why is third grade such a pivotal moment in the academic trajectory of a child?
The simple answer, third grade is the beginning of the transition from learning to read, to reading to learn.
Reading Success Tutor, Michelle Kusher, and Karina, 3rd Grader at Glen Flora, during one of their tutoring sessions.
According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, “nationwide, two out of three fourth graders are reading below grade level, and almost one-third of children lack even basic reading skills.” The reported numbers are even more concerning for children in low-income families, with 80 percent reading below grade level. However, it is important to note that research has shown that one-on-one tutoring has shown the greatest promise in improving reading proficiency.
United Way of Lake County has taken this information and applied it to developing the Reading Success Program to benefit the students within the Lake County Community. The Reading Success Program recruits’ volunteers that tutor 1st through 3rd grade students below reading levels, on reading and comprehension skills through one-on-one sessions. Reading Success now takes place in all elementary schools in Waukegan with 68 active volunteers in 38 classrooms serving over 150 students. This program is a collaborative effort with Waukegan Reading Success schools and teachers to identify students, match volunteers and gather data to measure student outcomes.
Susie Feldman, a teacher at Clearview Elementary, had this to say about the impact of the Reading Success Program, “When my students enter kindergarten, they are not able to identify the name of a single letter or a letter sound. They also have not learned to write their names or a single letter. Those are the challenges these kids bring to the schools,” she also adds that the early years of education are the most important as they lay the foundation for lifelong learning.
96% of the students who were at appropriate reading levels for Reading Success improved reading skills from Fall to Spring-moving up at least one reading grade level, in some cases two.
Sue Baehr, Reading Success Manager
And United Way of Lake County did not stop there. In 2016, Reading Success launched Early Reading Success to expose kindergarten students to the basics of reading by organizing trained volunteers to read stories to small groups of children. These groups read together and continue the learning by participating in a short interactive activity that relates to the book read. This program is a second semester program and provides all students with a summer practice packet and a book to read over the summer to prevent summer slide.
Diane Plunkett, a kindergarten teacher at Glenwood Elementary, shares— “Students are beginning to take ownership of their part in learning to read. Many students are beginning to blossom in their understanding of how we learn to read and how we enjoy it,” when discussing the impact of Reading Success.