How do we address the problems with Reading literacy in our schools?

The Problem:

The problem that we are addressing here is the fact that, “Nationwide, two out of every three Fourth-Graders are not proficient in Reading, according to the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress.” (From the article “Early Warning! Why reading by the end of Third Grade matters,” by a group called Voices for Children, 2010).

The same article also reports that, “Children who do not read proficiently by the end of Third Grade typically remain poor readers through high school and are less likely to graduate. Without a high school diploma, these youth will have significantly limited opportunities as adults.”

Another article (“Preventing Early Reading Failure and Its Devastating Downward Spiral,” by Joseph K. Torgesen, Ph.D., 2004) reinforces these beliefs by stating, “The evidence is in. The children who we hoped would be ‘late bloomers’ in Reading rarely are. Their early and modest reading weakness impedes enjoyment and deters practice. Soon, their small reading problems spiral into devastating ones.”

Did you know that our state and federal governments use the annual Third Grade Reading scores to estimate how many prison beds they’ll need and how many will require government assistance when they reach adulthood? It’s true.

Within our current educational system, up until Third Grade, the students are learning to read. Once in Third Grade, they begin the transition to reading to learn.

If the children are not reading at least at grade level by this time, they begin to experience difficulties in all subjects, and that only gets worse as time goes by. Only a limited amount of genuine learning, within the current standard classroom curriculum, can take place for the student experiencing significant Reading difficulties.

Reading deficiencies cause poor performance in school across all subjects. Children who do not experience success in school typically begin to exhibit negative behavioral issues as well. These behaviors can be disruptive ones that effect the learning process for other students as well, or a withdrawal from the whole educational process.

And, as we have learned, a significant number of these challenged readers will probably go on to become citizens that cost society rather than contribute to it.

Being an educator myself, I really don’t need the results of any studies or the citations from any “experts.” I have seen the problem in living color every day.

So, there you have our problem, and a significant one it is. It is so significant that it is hard to believe that we have not addressed it with more resolve or with more success.

Wouldn’t it be exciting to be able to report that nationwide we were able to raise the percent of children reading at grade level before entering Third Grade to 90%, 95%, or even more? I believe these are reachable goals that correlate to improving the lives of real children and their real futures!

The Solution:

Here’s how we do it!

The Special Targeted and Appropriate Reading System (STARS).

Children entering school (Pre-K to 2nd grade) are assessed to determine their Reading level. Those children that can read at or above their grade level continue on the standard curriculum path.

Those determined to be reading below grade level are routed into the STARS program.

The STARS program focuses exclusively on Language and Reading instruction, primarily, but not exclusively, through the use of computers, lap tops, tablets and the appropriate software.

The premise here is that general knowledge in other subjects can be caught up on once the Reading has been has been brought up to Grade level.  

Teachers in the STARS classroom will find themselves being more facilitative than instructive.

The task of learning the English language and learning to read has to become more inviting, more fun, and more effective for these students.

The process is currently anything but that for children who have little or no support at home, and very limited success at school.

These students need focused and direct instruction, tailored individually for them. It is, of course, not practical for each student to have his or her own teacher, dedicated exclusively to them, but they can have their own computer and their own individualized learning path towards becoming a successful reader.

The whole world is learning via computers, iPADS, iPHONES, etc. We need to move some of our Reading and Language instruction into the 21st century.

Children love working and playing on a computer, and much of the available learning software looks more like a video game than an educational tool.

Children’s progress can also be rewarded with “game time” in many other educational game sites.

Children in the STARS program can be reassessed and integrated back into the standard classroom at any time, given they have attained the appropriate Reading level.

(Note: The STARS program and concept was developed by in 2014. The program has been submitted to school boards and community outreach programs, as well as The United States Department of Education and The White House. Hopefully someday, someone with some level of authority will recognize the potential of the program and at least initiate some level of a pilot program. Please help by getting the word (STARS) out there. Thank you.)


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