If reading came naturally, children would learn to read as easily as they learn to speak. But children donít learn to read just from being exposed to books or from being read to. Reading must be taught. And for many children, reading must be taught explicitly and systematically, one small step at a time.
Millions of children in America canít read
Almost 40 percent of fourth graders nationwide read below the basic level. This means they understand very little of what they read or can barely read at all. In poor and minority schools, the numbers are even worse.
Whatís most striking is how quickly the window of opportunity closes for most children. If a child canít read well by the end of third grade, odds are that he or she will never catch up. The effects of falling behind and feeling like a failure are devastating. As one principal told us, "A child who canít read soon starts kicking the child who can."
The individual toll starts early. Madeline, an appealing 8-year old at the Lab School in Washington, DC remembered what it was like before she was given intensive help with reading. "I just couldnít read the words that were in the books we had to read. I always felt left out. And a lot of the mornings when it was time to get up and go to school, I kept saying, ĎNo, no. I donít want to go.í"
We now know what works
Reading failure is largely preventable. Over the last 25 years, the federal government has invested more than $100 million to find out why so many children are struggling. That research has yielded a rough consensus on the best ways to teach reading. The good news is that we now know much more about how to identify children at risk and how to intervene effectively.
By and large, however, that knowledge still hasnít found its way into classrooms or homes. In
producing Reading Rockets: Launching Young Readers, our goal was to bring the reading research to life – to spread the
word about the teaching of reading and to present what works in a way parents and teachers are able to understand and use.
Spreading the word
We are committed to informing the people who touch young childrenís lives – parents, grandparents,
daycare providers, preschool teachers. As noted by reading expert Marilyn Adams "The likelihood that
a child will succeed in the first grade depends, most of all, on how much he or she has already learned about reading before
getting there." We aim to also reach out to communities where children are most at risk – low-income neighborhoods where poor reading levels reinforce a cycle of poverty.
Reading Rockets: Launching Young Readers is just one part of the Reading Rockets project, a national
initiative that also includes a one-hour documentary narrated by Morgan Freeman; an extensive outreach campaign with national
partners; a series of teleconferences for teachers; and a daily updated web
site (www.readingrockets.org) that offers detailed information about
teaching reading and helping children who fall behind.
Reading Rockets is funded by a major grant from the US Department of Education.
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