Yet another nervous and confused parent walked into my life recently. It’s part of the reading specialist job description, but it doesn’t have to be this way. I’m sure of that much.
Most parents of struggling students share a common problem: they know their child struggles with reading, but they don’t know what is causing the difficulties. And without that information, parents don’t know what to do next: it’s much more difficult to advocate if you don’t know exactly what the problem is.
From my experience, I think all parents need to know more, and know it earlier. With information, parents tend to feel less anxious and more like collaborative partners alongside their child’s teachers.
- Parents need to be informed about how children learn to read.
- They need to know about the science of reading, just as they know about the science of healthy eating. They should feel informed enough about the learning-to-read process, as well as their child’s literacy curriculum, to support their children at home. They should feel informed enough to ask pediatricians or teachers targeted questions all along the way.
- Parents can’t be in the dark about their own children’s reading development.
- They need to know how their child is doing during the early years and beyond, so they can raise concerns regarding a child’s growth when necessary, and raise those concerns early. This requires open and honest communication between parents and teachers/other specialists at the school, and it requires trust. Establishing this type of relationship and communication becomes much easier when both parties (parents and teachers) are adequately informed, allowing for a more reciprocal, balanced conversation.
Raising strong readers requires all hands on deck, and the earlier everyone gets on board, the higher the chances for success. It would mean parents balancing urgency over a child’s needs with their own sense of panic: there are lots of tools available, and we just need to use them at the right time and for the right reason. It would mean schools embracing every opportunity to be transparent with families. That transparency would help create a collective support team made up of people who all understand what kinds of help the child needs to master the skills he/she needs help with every day — and not just during the relatively-few hours that the child is in the classroom.
Next time on Notes from a Reading Specialist: Why don’t most schools share more information earlier with parents? And what can happen when parents are left in the dark?