If we want every student in Arkansas to read proficiently by the end of third grade, we must move the needle on parent and community engagement, school readiness, school attendance, and summer learning in the first eight years of a child’s life.
Parent and Community Engagement: Parents are their child’s first teachers and most important advocates. Family involvement is essential to ensuring that a child is healthy and developing on pace. There are many ways parents and community members can ensure they raise strong readers – from simply talking to young children to making sure they attend school every day.
Attendance: When children attend school regularly in kindergarten and first grade, they are more likely to read proficiently by the end of third grade. More than one in 10 kindergartners and first graders in Arkansas are chronically absent, meaning they miss nearly a month of school every year in excused or unexcused absences. When our children aren’t in school, they miss out on critical reading and math instruction they’ll need to succeed later in school and life.
School Readiness: Students who arrive at kindergarten with the skills they need to succeed—vocabulary, letter recognition, number sense, social-emotional skills and others—are more likely to read proficiently by the end of third grade. Only half of Arkansas’s kindergartners are considered ready for kindergarten.
Summer Learning: Summer can be a time of academic enrichment for our children or a time of learning loss. Unless students continue reading or join engaging programs, children risk losing two to three months of reading skills over the summer. Only 21 percent of Arkansas students currently have access to high-quality programs.
Classroom Instruction: A child spends six to seven hours a day in the classroom during the academic year. Elementary teachers must have deep knowledge of evidence-based strategies for teaching reading as well as the skills to implement them and use assessment and teaching methods that meet the diverse needs of students.