We’ve been talking a lot lately about third grade reading – about how important it is to develop strategies for improving children’s language and literacy development from birth to age 9. We talk about the 43% of Massachusetts third graders – including almost two-thirds of low-income students – who read below grade level. We worry that three-quarters of these children will still be struggling in high school, putting them at great risk of not graduating or contributing to the state’s knowledge-based economy.
What about the road to reading success? We at Strategies for Children have two one-pagers that provide helpful insights. One highlights developmental milestones, and the other outlines policy building blocks.
In the chart “A Developing Reader’s Journey to Third Grade,” Nonie Lesaux, the Harvard literacy expert who wrote “Turning the Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for Reading Success,” presents the typical developmental milestones for children from age 6 months to 9 years and suggests ways adults can support their language development and early literacy. A 6-month-old, for instance, babbles to imitate speech and enjoys picture books with faces and animals and objects. By age 3, a child typically has a vocabulary of 800-1,000 words and can point to pictures and words as an adult reads to her. By 8 or 9, a child is reading chapter books and learning about 3,000 new words a year.
Another chart, “The Building Blocks of Universal Reading Proficiency, Birth to Age 9,” lists the elements of a “systemic approach to supporting language and literacy development in family, school and community settings.” An infant needs language-rich home environments and high-quality infant and toddler programs. A preschooler needs a high-quality early education and care setting that is aligned with the school system’s kindergarten and primary grades. All children benefit from early educators and primary grade teachers who are well trained in language development and literacy.