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Reading Rockets: Launching Young Readers
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Reading Rockets: Launching Young Readers

Russ Whitehurst

Dr. Grover (Russ) Whitehurst is Assistant Secretary for Research and Improvement at the US Department of Education.

Reading Rockets: Launching Young Readers
Writing and Spelling
Meet the Experts
Roots of Reading Roots of Reading
Sounds and Symbols Sounds and Symbols
Fluent Reading Fluent Reading
Writing and Spelling Writing and Spelling
  Full Overview
Read Together
Literacy Launchers
Helpful Articles
Meet the Experts
Reading for Meaning Reading for Meaning
Reading Rocks!
Empowering Parents
Becoming Bilingual
Reading and the Brain
A Chance to Read
Toddling Toward Reading Toddling Toward Reading

An Interview With Russ Whitehurst

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Experiment with writing...
It's very important to give children opportunities to experiment with writing materials. Learning to write is a complicated process. It is as much a motor skill as it is an intellectual skill. And we've seen children exiting Head Start who don't yet have enough experience to be able to hold a crayon and draw with it. And so children without that experience are certainly going to be in terrific problems when they hit kindergarten and first grade and are actually asked to write for the first time.

It's also the case that writing experience gives a child an opportunity through his or her own motor actions to start to understand the relationship between letters and print. And so I think it's extremely important to provide opportunities for children to write long before the writing has any conventional meaning to it.
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The most important task of early schooling...
Learning to read is one of the most important tasks, perhaps the most important task, of early schooling. Children who fail to learn to read, and fail to learn to read early, are at substantial risk of later academic failure. They will fail both in reading and in all the other subjects that depend on reading. And we know that children who are very slow to develop reading skills at the end of first grade are at substantial risk of being failures at reading at the end of fourth grade. So, it's an important task.

We know for example, that many states are now looking at the fourth-grade reading performance scores in terms of predicting how much prison space they are going to need 10 or 12 years later. So it is the most important early academic task. It's important the children succeed at it, and it's clear that children who are in trouble, who don't have the skills necessary for success early on, are at substantial risk of continued failure in that arena and other academic subjects, as well.
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