Third grade is the most important year for your child’s reading development. By this time, students should have learned all of thephonics, blending skills, and other tools necessary to read fluently and understand a story and it’s context clues.
But what if your child isn’t reading fluently by this time? Many students in third grade and up come to me struggling to sound out basic words or summarize even a paragraph of what they’ve just read. If they can read the story at all, they often stumble over certain words, or their phrasing is choppy, making it difficult to understand what they’ve just read.
Third grade is the most crucial year for reading development because it is the last chance to gain those crucial skills. After third grade, students won’t just be reading for practice or pleasure. Instead, they’ll be reading for research, essays, report writing, and even more challenging school work. If your child is still struggling by this time, they are going to be at a serious disadvantage in the future.
Called “The Matthew Effect”, after the Bible verse found in the Gospel of Matthew: “For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.” In other words, students who are reading fluently by the third grade will continue to be exponentially better students, while those who are still struggling are very likely to continue to struggle.
Luckily, there are many early intervention steps that can be taken to reverse the Matthew Effect. The most important step is taking action instead of just hoping that things resolve themselves--look for signs that a child is not reading easily or fluently and supplementing them with extra material or help. Tutoring, or even summer school as terrible as it might seem for a child can set children on the right path again for reading fluency.
If your own child is struggling with reading fluency, don’t panic! There’s still time to turn things around. Reading Genie provides free assessments for students, and if you don’t want to take that route just yet, there are plenty of things you can do at home (vocabulary practice, sounding out words and reading together) that can help.