Some children, from an early age, learn to read effortlessly, but there are others who struggle. Reading is a complex skill that needs to be taught early, deliberately, systematically, contextually and incrementally. The right kind of literature must be introduced at the right time to build a child’s reading abilities. Children who are proficient in reading are more likely to do well in subjects other than languages.
Reading proficiency entails two things: (1) Decoding skills that enable children to read a text, and (2) meaning-making or comprehension skills that enable children to understand, engage and get involved with a piece of text.
Children learn to read in grades K-3, and read to learn from grade 4 onwards. Research shows that children fall far behind academically if they do not develop this proficiency.
Literacy, on the other hand, is the ability to access, assimilate and analyse information. It helps students express thought with precision, present ideas and opinions clearly, and interact actively.
A mindset shift
There is a difference between literacy and reading. Literacy does not mean teaching children to read. Every voracious reader is literate as one needs to know how to read in order to read avidly. However, not every literate person may love reading. Literacy is essential for every citizen to contribute as an informed voter, qualify for jobs and read necessary information. Reading for leisure, on the other hand, broadens one’s perspective, allows children to dream and opens a world of possibilities for them.
By fostering the love for reading in children, parents and educators equip them to explore the world with a wider mindset and prepare them for the unknown. Students who are proficient readers and have reading friendly environments at home, as measured by their performance on various reading tests, are more likely to perform better than their peers.
Assessing reading proficiency
Research also suggests that children should be independent readers, with fluency and comprehension, by the time they finish grade 3. However, the FAST assessment conducted by Stones2Milestones demonstrated that only 12.5% of 4th graders, 2.1% of 5th graders and 3.9% of 6th graders show advanced comprehension and vocabulary abilities.
Although it is expected that children become independent readers by grade 3, it is evident that only a small percentage of children in India have the required reading proficiency for their age. Literacy and reading proficiency are not synonymous; they are different skills, with different classrooms and needs.
Armed with a book and love for reading in her backpack, a child is armed for life.
By- Aditi Mehta. The author is head, Content, Training and Impact, Stones2Milestones