Updated: Apr 19, 2022
Photo Courtesy of Aaron Burden on Unsplash
A few weeks ago my friends and I decided to go to Target, which is everyone's favorite happy place to shop. While exploring and picking up things we didn’t need, we ended up stopping at the children's section of books. The display of books was set up as a mini-library which was inviting and creative.
As we walked down the aisle and scanned the rows, we started to see books from our childhood. We reminisced about the books we used to read at school, at home, and at our public library. This started to make me think more about my childhood and what it was like when I was in school.
During elementary, the scholastic book fair would take place and it reminded me of how much I was pushed to read. A week before the fair, they would hand out packets to everyone that showed what would be available at the book fair. I remember taking this packet home to my mom and picking out the books that I wanted to read.
But I was not always this excited to read. For teachers to see where their students are at individually standardized test was given. This assessment allowed teachers to understand their class as a whole and to modify instruction. To me, this was a test I didn’t want to take because I considered it hard. When we got our results back mine was not the strongest, in fact, was below basic in reading and math. I struggled to understand certain words and this was a problem that needed to be solved.
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My mom was concerned and after that, she made sure that she was taking out more time to help me in my struggle areas. I was placed in an afterschool program to help improve my reading comprehension as well as pulled out of class to better prepare me for future testing.
When kids find out you have extra help in school, they can be mean, and teasing does not help with a kid’s confidence. With a little TLC and reassurance from my mom and teachers, they made me aware that it was okay that I was not at a higher level than other children and one day I would pass others with flying colors. They were not wrong.
Later on, I would improve my skills at reading, gain confidence to read in class. pick up more challenging books and understand what I was learning. However, I knew I was not alone in this and many children around me didn’t like to read, because many of us were embarrassed or we didn’t know how to understand what we were reading.
Because of these memories, it got me interested in learning more about reading literacy. Did you know that 25 million children in the U.S. cannot read proficiently? As well as 1 in 4 children in America growing up without learning how to read and students who don't read proficiently by the 3rd grade are 4 times more likely to drop out of school.
I have witnessed this firsthand while working with children in after-school programs. As an after-school coach, I was tasked to be sure that what children were learning in school, they could practice after-school. They would complain that it was too hard and it was higher-level work when in actuality it was their grade-level work that they should have been taught to do or in the process of learning how. I remember feeling the same as they do.
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I was able to improve my reading by having face-to-face contact inside, outside, and after school. From my teachers, parents, and family members helping me improve. But Because of COVID-19, a lot of children are having difficulties learning, especially with the transition from being in the classroom to being in front of a computer screen. Some children also don’t have the same situations at home and sadly, some parents don’t put the effort into helping their children develop these skills and this is due to many factors.
I will never forget when I asked one of the students in my class to read a question and she said to me “Ms.Sadia, I don’t know how to read this.” My heart instantly broke because I knew how she felt, looking at the word she should have been able to identify, and when she couldn’t she started to cry.
At that moment I wondered where her connection to reading began. Was she being taught at home? Were the teachers doing their job and helping students? So many questions and not enough answers.
It’s very important that children develop these skills in school but also out of school. In order for children to grow, you have to challenge them and give them the confidence they need to keep moving forward no matter what. They might fall in love with reading as I did as a child. You never know unless you try.
Sadia Wells is a recent graduate student with a BS in Journalism and Mass Communication with a concentration in Mass Media Production from North Carolina A&T State University. She currently resides in Charlotte, NC.