Reading, with a little help

Published 8:47 pm Friday, March 6, 2009

Studies show that there is no better indicator of future academic success than a love of reading. Even more than economic or social status, reading skills determine how well a student will do in future classes, according to an international study in 2003.

Separate studies, however, show that a growing number of children and teens consider reading to be an activity for nerds. Anecdotal evidence confirms the studies: Visit any city library, even on its busiest day, and you’re likely to find fewer children — and fewer adults, for that matter — than you will at the local video game outlet or at home surfing the Internet.

Fewer parents than ever read to their children, meaning that more children than ever enter school unprepared. The problem is not just that they don’t already know how to read when they hit kindergarten or first grade, it’s that they have a harder time than their peers learning the solid English skills that serve as a basis for every academic subject. Teachers often find that those students never quite catch up.

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With so much at stake, and considering children’s growing bias against spending time with a good book, it’s encouraging to see programs such as Robertson Elementary School’s Read-a-thon.

The Read-a-thon pairs up elementary students with their peers two or three grades ahead for quality time with age-appropriate books. The children read together, with the elder child playing the role of a tutor. Through the program, the elder students encourage the younger ones to learn to love reading. And by helping to teach their younger peers to read, the elder children also have their own reading skills reinforced.

It’s a small thing, just one small program at one small school. Still, the Read-a-thon is just the type of thing that schools should be doing to help their students succeed. It’s good to see Suffolk working to give its students their best chance for academic success.