Reading fluency is arguably the bedrock of a comprehensive modern education, and too many children in the United States fall short of it. Children who struggle to read, or who simply lack access to reading material, virtually always find themselves at a steep disadvantage in school. They face an even steeper disadvantage later in life, as their more literate peers compete for jobs. Fortunately, Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), an educational non-profit, is working to redress this educational imbalance with various programs aimed primarily toward at-risk kids who need a little extra help.
The first requirement of a child who’s learning to love reading is to have access to books and age-appropriate reading materials. While lending libraries and school stocks can pick up some of the slack in providing kids with material to spark their interest, RIF has identified this unmet need as a prime area for its work. RIF is operating in an environment where up to two-thirds of children living in poverty have no books at home, and the number of children living in poverty in the United States is rising.
The organization has delivered over 15 million new books to 4 million children as part of its Books for Ownership program.
Working through other community resources, such as schools, churches, and community centers, the program has reached into homes all over the country to give kids the means for a lifetime of success.
Having books in the home is a good start, but it’s of little use if the child is never taught the value of cracking them open and reading for pleasure.
RIF lights that inspirational fire for millions of children through various engagement programs. Of special note is the organization’s series of workshops, such as Train the Trainer. This program maximizes the effect each individual can have by training volunteers to teach, not just literacy skills to children, but literacy teaching methods to other adults, so they, in turn, may become reading teachers for some special child.
This progress doesn’t happen in a vacuum, of course. RIF places special emphasis on building up the family connection for strong readers. The Family of Readers program, which is aimed at the parents of children who struggle with literacy, teaches families how to create an atmosphere of reading fluency in the home, where it counts the most. Parents enrolled in the program are taught strategies for reading aloud, helping children through difficult passages, and setting aside reading periods during the day to build up core literacy skills.
Children from families who speak English as a second language (ESL) face special challenges when learning to read.
Though children from such homes often grow up bilingual, special measures may be needed to help them learn written English, which may never be used at home. Textbook publisher, Scholastic, encourages an empathetic, group-based approach to helping ESL students learn to read fluently, and RIF follows suit by promoting family- and classroom-based interventions that avoid alienating the child and foster a supportive learning environment.
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Learning to read, and just as important, learning to love reading, is the foundation of a successful academic career.
Children who have been left behind, whether by an overworked school system, troubled family environment, or cultural barriers that frustrate attempts at advancement, need special help in the crucial early days of their education. By stepping in with a strong community-based approach to knocking down barriers for young readers, RIF helps clear the way for a generation of children to step out of the shadows and into the limelight as successful young readers.