Literacy -- the ability to read and write -- is one of the most critical skills a child will develop in school. Unless a student understands what he or she reads, it’s nearly impossible to do well in school. Unfortunately, many public school students, both in New York City and around the country, are years behind in reading. Too many young people make it to middle and high school without mastering the basic skills they need to read academic texts and be successful in all academic areas, including math, science, social studies, and the arts. National and local researchers have found major gaps in literacy skills based on students’ race/ethnicity, socioeconomic class, and disability status, not because these students can't learn to read and write, but because they've had limited exposure to literacy-rich environments, received ineffective instruction in their classrooms, and thier teachers have gone with insufficient training specific to teaching reading and writing.
But, it doesn’t have to be this way! Research shows that schools can successfully teach students with a wide range of needs to read when schools and teachers have the resources, training, and ongoing support they need, and parents are supported in developing successful literacy practices at home.
On this webpage, you’ll find:
- A brief introduction to key concepts in literacy instruction;
- Information and resources for struggling readers and students with disabilities;
- Information on the New York City Department of Education (DOE)’s current literacy goals; and
- Ways to become involved in your child’s learning to read.
Some of this information applies to all students, but much is specific to those in New York City. If you live elsewhere, we recommend you look at local policies and services. If you don't know where to start, families of children with disabilities can reach out to the federally-funded parent center serving their area for information and support.
Literacy 101: The basics of reading instruction
In 2000, the National Reading Panel -- a team of educators, scientists, and other experts, brought together by Congress to review the research on the best ways to teach children to read -- issued an important report [PDF] summarizing the “five pillars” of literacy instruction: phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Direct instruction in each of these areas, described below, is especially important for struggling readers.
Literacy instruction should occur throughout a student’s entire education -- not just in elementary school -- as literacy skills continue developing from preschool through the end of high school.
- In pre-K, children develop pre-reading, or "emergent literacy," skills that they will need to become successful readers in the future.
- In kindergarten and first grade, children break the "code" that links print and spoken language, learning how to link written letters with the sounds those letters represent.
- From second to fifth grade, children strengthen decoding skills and their ability to recognize words quickly and easily, and they learn strategies for making sense of what they read.
- From sixth to twelfth grade, students continue to develop vocabulary and reading comprehension skills as they read more and more complex and specialized texts.
The process of learning to read and write starts at birth! Even as babies, children are developing the early language skills that will help them become successful readers in the future.
When children are read to and have early experiences with books, they learn about the purpose of print -- that books tell stories, which stay the same every time they're read. They learn how to hold a book and when to turn the page, and that words are read from left to right and from the top of the page to the bottom.
Another important skill is alphabet knowledge -- learning the ABCs. Children who can identify the letters of the alphabet are better prepared to become readers.
For more information on early literacy and tips for reading with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, check out Get Ready to Read!, Zero to Three, and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
Phonological and phonemic awareness
Phonological awareness is the ability to hear and use the sounds of spoken language, like syllables and rhymes. Before children can learn the relationships between letters and sounds -- the building blocks of being able to read -- they must first understand that the words they say and hear can be broken down into smaller "chunks." Children develop phonological awareness through language activities like:
- Identifying words that start or end with the same sound. (For example: "What sound is the same in book, bike, and ball? What other words start with that sound?")
- Recognizing rhyming words and making new rhymes. (For example: "Which word doesn't belong -- cat, rat, dog? What’s a word that does rhyme with dog?")
- Breaking words into smaller chunks (For example: "What smaller words do you hear in pancake?") and making new words by adding smaller words together (For example: "What new word can we make from cow and boy?").
- Clapping out the syllables in words.
A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound in a spoken word that makes a difference to the word’s meaning. English consists of 44 phonemes, which combine to form syllables and words.
The word bat is composed of three phonemes (three sounds) which we represent as /b/, /a/, and /t/. Changing the first phoneme from /b/ to /h/ changes the word from bat to hat.
Phonemic awareness is a specific type of phonological awareness. It is the ability to hear, isolate, and manipulate the individual sounds (phonemes) that make up spoken words. Activities that build this skill include:
- Blending sounds to make new words, and breaking words apart into their individual sounds. (For example: "I’m going to stretch the sounds in a word, and then you tell me what the word is when you say it the fast way: /mmm/ /aaa/ /t/.")
- Adding or deleting phonemes to create new words. (For example: "What happens if you add the /mmm/ sound to the word ice? What new word do you get if you take the /s/ sound off of small?")
Check out Reading Rockets for more information on phonological and phonemic awareness, including what it looks like when children are struggling with these skills and what teachers and parents can do to help.
Phonics teaches children how to connect the sounds of spoken language with the letters of written language in order to read and understand print. Though some children will figure out the "rules" of language on their own, most need to be taught these rules and how to use what they know about letter-sound relationships to decode, or "sound out," words that they haven't seen before and to spell words they have heard spoken but not seen written out.
Some words do not follow the rules of phonics and and must be memorized. These are often referred to as "sight words" -- words that are recognized instantly and easily, because we have seen them many times before.
In addition to letter-sound relationships, phonics programs teach students about the meaningful parts of words, like prefixes, suffixes, base words, and roots. In your child's classroom, this might be called "word study" or "word work." Beginning readers learn how breaking words into smaller, recognizable chunks can help them determine what words mean and how to pronounce them.
Fluency is the ability to read accurately, effortlessly, and with proper expression and speed. Fluent readers recognize words right away, without having to sound them out each time. When they read out loud, it sounds natural and smooth (they don't get "stuck"). Fluency comes with practice and is important because when we don't have to focus on just getting the individual words off the page, we can focus on trying to understand the meaning of what we're reading.
Vocabulary refers to the words we know and use. It is easier for beginning readers to sound out words that they have already heard and said many times before. A large vocabulary is important for comprehension -- in order to understand what we read, we first have to know what the most of the words mean and how they can be used.
The word bug is the name of an animal ("There's a bug crawling on my arm!") and can also be used as a verb ("My mom keeps bugging me to clean my room"), so we have to look at the whole sentence in order to know what bug means.
Comprehension is the ability to understand what you are reading -- to make connections between what you read and what you already know and to be able to draw conclusions from what's written. It requires actively engaging with the words on the page, asking questions like "what's the most important point?" and "why did things happen that way?".
It is important to note that there are multiple ways to process text! Whether you turn the pages of a book, listen to an audiobook, or scroll through an e-book on a tablet, you still enjoy the exact same story. Students who struggle with decoding and fluency may benefit from assistive technology, which can help them access and understand material that is at their intellectual level.
You may have noticed that your child's school organizes classroom books by "levels." These levels help children pick out books on their own and help teachers track student progress. Levels are based on things like the total number of words used (in each sentence, on each page, and in the whole book); how many different or unique words are used, versus the number of words that get repeated; and how much pictures are used to help the reader understand what is written.
Schools choose their own ways of leveling books, but one of the most commonly used scales is called Fountas & Pinnell, named after the literacy researchers who created it. The Fountas & Pinnell chart [PDF] gives guidelines for reading goals by grade level. If your child is reading below the "meets expectations" level for their grade, they may need extra help.
Your child’s school may use a different reading level system than the one pictured here. Ask your child’s teacher how their reading level is measured, and how their progress compares to national averages (not just their class or school averages).
To learn more...
- Advocates for Children's 2016 report A is for All: Meeting the Literacy Needs of Students with and without Disabilities in the New York City Public Schools provides information on how children learn to read and what research tells us about effective instruction.
- Colorín Colorado offers literacy resources for families of English Language Learners.
- Get Ready to Read! provides resources and information on helping toddlers and preschoolers build early literacy skills and prepare for success in kindergarten.
- The National Institute for Literacy's A Child Becomes A Reader: Proven Ideas from Research for Parents explains developmental milestones and provides lots of specific, straightforward examples for how you can help your child become a successful reader. There's one handbook covering birth through preschool [PDF] and one covering grades K-3 [PDF].
- PBS Parents also provides information on developmental milestones and tips for parents on supporting language and literacy learning at every age.
- Reading is Fundamental offers tips and tools, including "reading check-ups" parents can use to see if their child is on track developmentally.
- Reading Rockets has a wealth of resources specifically for parents, including explanations of the concepts described in this section, what it looks like when a child is struggling in a particular skill, and tips for reading and learning with your child. Be sure to check out their "Target the Problem" guide for practical suggestions for helping your student overcome reading difficulties.
Help for struggling readers
Learning to read does not come naturally for many children! In fact, most literacy experts think that about one in every five children will have significant difficulties with reading and writing. The reasons why students struggle vary, but some common ones include:
- School instruction that does not cover one or more of the five pillars of reading, or that does not do so effectively and using evidence-based programs.
- Trouble with memory, focus, and/or attention.
- Disabilities such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, visual disabilities, speech and language impairments, or autism.
- For English Language Learners (ELLs), the added challenge of learning a new language.
If you suspect your child is struggling with reading and writing, you should talk to someone at their school right away. Signs of trouble in kindergarten and first grade should be taken seriously -- don't expect children to "grow out" of reading struggles. It is important to address problems with reading as early as possible! The goal is to prevent students from falling further behind their peers in reading and other subjects that rely on the ability to read (for example, if a student has a hard time reading, they will have a hard time with word problems in math, no matter how good their math skills are).
There are many different intervention programs for reading. Some are better than others -- there's lots of high-quality research that proves they work -- or are better matched to certain learning needs. Because every child is different, there is no "one-size-fits-all" solution to reading difficulties. Individual schools may offer a number of intervention programs for students who fall behind in reading, but no school can offer every possible program. In general, the most important thing is that interventions are provided by a well-trained, knowledgeable teacher or specialist, who has the support and resources they need to be able to do their job well.
Response to Intervention
New York City schools, and many other schools across the United States, use an approach called Response to Intervention (RtI) to help students develop core literacy skills. RtI is NOT a specific teaching method or curriculum, and it is NOT the same as special education! RtI is a process for measuring every student's progress and making sure that every student who needs extra help receives it. Under RtI, schools screen all students to evaluate their skills and progress, and students get support at three levels, or "tiers," based on those assessments.
All students are taught core reading skills in the general classroom. Teachers provide some additional help and individualized support. Students may work in smaller groups within the classroom based on their ability levels and learning styles.
Students who are having trouble mastering skills get extra, targeted teaching in small groups. These interventions are in addition to regular classroom instruction, not a replacement for it.
Students who don't show progress in Tier 2 get even more intensive and targeted support. This might mean intervention sessions happen more often or are one-on-one with a trained teacher in a separate location.
If you think your child may need special education services, ask for an evaluation -- you don’t have to wait until he or she has gone through all the levels of RtI first!
Some common programs provided as part of RtI include: Wilson Fundations, Reading Recovery, Reading Rescue, Great Leaps, and Really Great Reading's Phonics Blast.
To learn more about RtI and how it works, check out Understood.org, Reading Rockets, and the National Center for Learning Disabilities' Parent's Guide to RtI [PDF]. For information on RtI in the New York City Public Schools, visit the DOE's website and view their Academic Intervention Toolkit for Literacy [PDF].
Students with disabilities
While not every child who struggles to read has a disability, many students with disabilities struggle with reading and writing. If your student is struggling to learn to read and write, or is falling behind grade level, they may benefit from special education services. If your child is not getting special education services, speak to someone at your school about starting the evaluation process to determine whether your child has a disability that’s limiting their progress. If your child is already getting special education services, you and the school should work to make sure he or she is getting the most appropriate services to address learning needs.
See below for more information on the types of disabilities that can impact reading, the rights of students with disabilities, and types of services and supports.
Children who don't receive the support they need to develop basic literacy skills when they are young will continue to struggle in higher grades until they can build the foundation they need to read longer, more complicated materials covered in the later school years. These students, even if already in middle or high school, still need instruction in foundational skills to catch up to their peers. However, it's important to provide adolescent readers with appealing, age-appropriate books, so they won't become frustrated and lose interest in school. For example, if you ask a teenager to read about "Spot the Dog," it's likely that they’ll walk away from the lesson.
Some tips for helping struggling teen readers include:
- Using assistive technology, such as digital textbooks with read aloud software, to allow students to access grade level materials that they are unable to decode.
- Providing intensive tutoring and specialized instruction outside the classroom to build foundational skills.
- Offering reading materials that match student interests, even if they're not "academic" -- for example, magazines or comics -- and encouraging older youth to focus on their own improvement.
Some common intervention programs that target adolescents include: Wilson Just Words, the Strategic Adolescent Reading Intervention (STARI), and Really Great Reading's Phonics Blitz and Phonics Boost.
For more information on adolescent literacy and resources for parents and educators working with struggling older students, see AdLit.org and the Alliance for Excellent Education.
Disabilities that can impact reading
Dyslexia is a specific language-based learning disability that makes it more difficult to learn to read. Dyslexia is NOT a problem with vision, and it has nothing to do with intelligence. It means the brain is "wired" differently and processes language differently than a non-dyslexic brain.
Children with dyslexia typically have trouble recognizing the individual sounds in words (phonemic awareness), connecting letters with sounds, and decoding words accurately and fluently. They are very capable of learning how to read, but they will likely need extra help and more specialized teaching to master these skills. Many people with dyslexia also have dysgraphia, which is a specific learning disability that affects written expression.
For more information, including the signs and symptoms of dyslexia, how dyslexia is diagnosed, and the teaching methods that typically help students with dyslexia, check out the International Dyslexia Association (IDA)'s Dyslexia Handbook: What Every Family Should Know, Understood.org's dyslexia and dysgraphia resources, the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity's parent resources, and Dyslexia Help at the University of Michigan.
Speech and language disorders
Speech impairments impact a child's ability to produce certain sounds and form spoken words. Language disorders make it hard for students to understand what people are saying to them, and/or to find the right words and form sentences to express their own thoughts and feelings in conversation. Students with language disorders may struggle with vocabulary, reading comprehension, or writing. It's important for children to get help for speech and language difficulties as early as possible. To learn more about speech and language disorders and how speech-language therapy can help, check out Understood.org.
Vision also has a huge impact on a child's ability to read. A child with poor eyesight, for example, needs glasses in order to be able to read! Vision disorders also include processing and perceptual issues, which can impact a child's ability to follow written text, tell different letters apart, and understand what they are seeing. Vision therapy may help students with visual disabilities improve their reading and writing. To learn more about vision processing disorders and how they can impact reading, check out Understood.org and Wishes of Literacy.
Autism spectrum disorder
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability that affects social interaction, language and communication, and behavior. Signs of ASD typically appear in early childhood, and can include:
For more information on developmental milestones, diagnosis, and services and therapies for children with autism, check out the Center for Disease Control & Prevention's autism spectrum disorder webpage and the Child Mind Institute's Guide to ASD.
The rights of students with disabilities
Students with disabilities have specific rights and protections under federal, state, and local law and policy. These rights apply if your child is already receiving special education services, or if you want your child to be evaluated to see if special education could be helpful. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the federal law which defines those rights and protections, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act also protects students with disabilities from discrimination.
If your child is struggling to learn to read and you think he or she may have a disability, you have the right to have your child evaluated. Evaluations are the first step in learning what help your child needs. Evaluations can help figure out:
- If your child has a disability;
- Whether they can benefit from special education services;
- What supports and services are likely to help your child the most; and
- Ways school staff can help your child build needed skills.
For more information on evaluations, see Understood.org and Advocates for Children's fact sheet on evaluations [PDF].
The Individualized Education Program (IEP) is the document that outlines your child’s educational needs and the services your child is entitled to receive, and the IEP team is the group of people that writes and reviews the IEP. As a parent, you are one of the most important members of the IEP team! You have the right to attend all IEP meetings and to bring others with you, and you must have the opportunity to fully participate in decision-making with the other team members. For more information on IEPs, see Understood.org and INCLUDEnyc's tip sheet on the IEP team.
There are many strategies and services that can help a child learn to read and write. Below are some options you may want to think about if your child has a disability and is not making progress in developing literacy skills.
Accommodations and modifications
Accommodations are changes to how class material is presented so that students with disabilities are, as much as possible, given the same instruction and curriculum as their non-disabled peers. Some examples of accommodations that can help students who are struggling to read and write include:
>> How information is presented to the student:
>> Changes to the student’s classroom setting:
>> How the student shares information:
The Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and IDEA all require schools to provide students with reasonable accommodations.
Modifications are changes to what is taught to and expected of a student with a disability. Some students with disabilities may struggle to learn the same material as their peers and at the same speed. These students may benefit from modifications to the material they are expected to learn. However, modifications should only be used when absolutely necessary.
Modifications for students struggling with reading and writing might include:
- Shortening or changing classroom text to include words that are easier to read
- Providing fewer reading and writing assignments to students
- Allowing students to read books and materials on lower grade levels
- Giving a student fewer and easier spelling words to learn
- Allowing students to write shorter essays and assignments than other peers
See Understood.org for more information on common accommodations and modifications and what parents should know.
Special Education Teacher Support Services (SETSS)
SETSS instruction allows a child to work closely, either one-to-one or in a small group, with a special education teacher. Students may receive reading remediation in SETSS. Remediation is instruction in basic areas where a student needs more help, such as in foundational reading and writing skills. The goal of remediation is to help a child to catch back up to their peers in grade level standards. This may mean working to build or reinforce literacy skills and strategies.
Assistive Technology (AT)
Students struggling to read and write may benefit from assistive technology (AT). AT refers to any device or service that helps an individual student learn. For example, AT might help a student access reading materials or aid in writing. As an alternative to reading printed text, students can learn and share information by listening, using alternate texts like Braille, or using communication devices. Other examples of AT include: computers and tablets with speech-to-text, word prediction and note-taking software; audiobooks; and communication boards.
Bookshare and Learning Ally are two non-profit organizations that provide free audiobooks to students with print disabilities, including dyslexia, blindness, and vision impairments. In New York City, the Andrew Heiskell Library also offers free audiobooks and Braille service for those with disabilities that impact reading.
For help with getting AT for your student, see Disability Rights New York’s Protection and Advocacy for Assistive Technology (PAAT) program.
For more information and videos on AT devices and services, we urge you to look at our page on AT.
Structured, multisensory reading instruction
Effective reading interventions for students with disabilities need to be structured, multisensory, and evidence-based.
- Structured reading interventions follow a clear, logical, and planned order of teaching. Easier concepts must be taught before harder ones, and each new lesson builds on what students know already. Everything is explained in a direct, precise, and straightforward way, so students never have to guess at what they should know or do.
- Multisensory instruction uses all of a child’s senses, including sight, sound and touch, so that a child learns by experiencing the same material in many ways. For example, the teacher might have a student write a letter in sand or shaving cream with their finger, while saying the sound the letter makes out loud.
- Evidence-based instruction refers to programs and practices that have been tested and are strongly supported by impartial studies.
There are a number of structured, multisensory programs that have been developed to teach struggling readers, based on what is called the Orton-Gillingham approach (named for the researchers who created it). Two well-known programs based on Orton-Gillingham are the Wilson Reading System and the Spalding Method. Your child may need to be in a classroom with staff specially trained to use one of these evidence-based programs, or they may need to work one-on-one with a reading specialist who is an expert in one or more evidence-based programs.
For more information on evidence-based programs and structured, multisensory reading instruction, see the International Dyslexia Association and Reading Rockets.
Support outside of school
Some students may need more help outside of school to become able readers. This is true especially if schools have failed to teach them to read and write for a long time. Students with severe reading delays may benefit from outside tutoring from an evidence-based, multisensory, and structured reading remediation program.
To learn more...
This is not an exhaustive list of supports and services, and it’s important to note that every student is different and has unique needs! As a parent, you should work with your child's school to ensure that your child receives the services they need to make progress in reading. In addition to the links above:
- See Advocates for Children’s Questions and Answers about Literacy [PDF] for more information on your rights and options surrounding your child learning to read.
- For more information on students' rights under Section 504, see Advocates for Children's Guide to Section 504 [PDF], Parent to Parent’s Section 504 resources page, and the DOE's Section 504 FAQs.
- For more information about the special education process in New York City, see Advocates for Children's Guide to Special Education [PDF], INCLUDEnyc’s special education resources page, and the DOE’s Family Guide to Special Education Services for School-Age Children.
- The National Center on Improving Literacy, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, provides information on literacy-related disabilities and evidence-based interventions.
The NYC Department of Education's literacy initiatives
Instructional programs in the classroom
DOE schools use a variety of evidence-based programs to teach students of a range of ages and a variety of disabilities to read. Those include Orton-Gillingham and Wilson programs. These programs work for many, but not all students, and it is important that teachers have enough training and support to be able to use them correctly. The ARISE Coalition has been advocating for some time now for the DOE to train more teachers in a wider range of methods and to expand access to evidence-based instruction to meet the needs of struggling readers.
City-wide universal literacy initiative
As part of NYC’s Equity and Excellence for All initiative announced in 2015, the DOE is aiming to have all students reading on grade level by the end of 2nd grade by the year 2026. To reach this goal, every elementary school will receive support from a dedicated reading coach. In the 2016-17 school year, the DOE hired and began training 103 reading coaches working in all NYC elementary schools in 4 school districts. In the coming years, they plan to add more coaches until they’re working in every NYC public school district.
Which schools are being targeted?
The first reading coaches are in some of the City’s elementary school districts with the greatest need. Currently, they are in districts 9 and 10 in the Bronx and districts 17 and 32 in Brooklyn. The DOE plans to grow that number over the next few years.
Will these coaches work with my child?
The DOE’s main goal for the reading coaches is to train and support early grade teachers (Kindergarten – 2nd grade) to provide core literacy instruction to a wide range of students, with and without special education needs. The coaches will work primarily with the teachers, rather than directly with the students.
What if my child is in an elementary school in District 9, 10, 17, or 32 and I think he or she needs more help in learning to read? Who should I speak with?
Start with your classroom teacher and work your way up to the District Office for your school. Ask about the coaches and how they’re supporting the teachers. Ask about how teachers are supporting all the students, and your child in particular.
City-wide special education initiatives
The DOE’s Division of Specialized Instruction and Student Support (DSISS) aims to provide Common Core aligned literacy support for students with disabilities that impact reading and writing. In Districts 1-32, these supports focus on intensive interventions for kindergarten-12 students who benefit from multisensory, structured instruction. Programs used and supported by DSISS include Orton-Gillingham based programs such as Recipe for Reading, Spire, and Rewards.
DSISS also supports students with disabilities in District 75 schools and programs. In addition to traditional literacy programs, District 75 uses several other programs to teach literacy that rely on explicit multisensory instruction. Those include Structured Methods in Language Education (SMiLE), First Author, Attainment, and Language Links to Literacy.
Currently DSISS is working on two key citywide initiatives:
Developed to support literacy development in the early grades, this initiative aims to provide training to students in phonological awareness as a key foundation for other literacy instruction. The initiative requires collaboration between kindergarten and 1st grade classroom teachers and Speech and Language Providers. Supports are provided by speech and language providers during schools’ literacy blocks and through the use of programs such as Sounds in Motion and Fundations.
(2) IEP teacher
960 NYC public schools with high numbers of students with IEPs have IEP teachers on staff who are being trained to provide literacy intervention for students with IEPs and students who may be referred for special education services. IEP teachers are learning specialists. A critical part of their job is to work with students to improve academic skills and make sure referrals for special education services only happen as necessary. They are expected to provide specialized and individualized literacy instruction and intervention to students and monitor student progress, adjusting interventions when needed. IEP teachers also attend IEP meetings.
How can I help my child?
Parents play an important role in helping children become successful readers! Research shows that students whose families are involved in their education learn to read sooner than their peers whose families are less involved.
The DOE's NYC Reads 365 program, which the Chancellor launched to build citywide momentum and enthusiasm for daily reading, lists many ways that parents can become involved in their children learning to read, along with lists of recommended books by grade level.
Here are a few things we recommend that you can do to get more involved in your child’s reading development in school and at home:
Speak to your child’s teacher
The best resource for learning about your child’s progress in reading is your child’s classroom teacher! Attend parent-teacher conferences, and reach out if you're worried your child isn't making progress. Advocates for Children has developed a list of important questions to ask your child’s teacher [PDF] about how well he or she is learning to read or write. A few important ones include:
- What should my child be able to do by the end of this year with respect to reading and writing? Is he/she on track to do that? How do you know?
- Are there any skills he/she seems to be struggling with? What can I do to support my child's growth in these important skill areas?
- How will you keep me updated on my child’s progress in reading and writing?
- How can I make reading more enjoyable and meaningful for my child?
- What extra help or support do you provide students who are having trouble learning to read and write? Does this school use Response to Intervention (RtI) for reading or provide any interventions, either inside or outside of your classroom?
- Is my child currently receiving any extra help or interventions? If yes, what program or strategy is being used? Can you give me more information about how the program works?
See also INCLUDEnyc's tip sheet on parent-teacher conferences and Reading Rockets' back-to-school page for more on learning what’s going on in your child’s classroom.
Become involved in your child’s classroom
Some suggestions include:
- Volunteer to read to your child's class.
- Attend reading intervention sessions with your child (including tutoring and special education services) to get a sense of what is being done.
- Ask your school's parent coordinator to organize workshops for families on topics related to reading instruction, like the specific program the school is using or how to get extra help for your child.
- Work with your child's teacher to develop a "literacy day" at school for parents and students.
At-home literacy practices
Learning to read does not begin or end in the classroom -- good literacy habits at home are important, too! At-home and family literacy practices help to strengthen and support reading skills that students are developing during the school day, and are important for students at all ages and reading levels, not just young children first learning to read.
Home literacy practices should be fun for everyone. There are many resources for families looking for tips and ideas; here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Sing songs and make up silly rhymes and tongue-twisters with your child.
- Visit the library together. The New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, and Queens Public Library all have lots of free events and programs for kids, teens, and their families.
- Build a home library and encourage your child to read on his or her own. Many pediatricians give free books to babies, toddlers, and preschoolers through a program called Reach Out & Read -- ask your child's doctor if they participate.
- Listen to audiobooks together, like while driving in the car or riding the bus.
- Add closed captioning to your TV to encourage children at every age to read as they watch.
- Play games with your children that support reading and build vocabulary.
- Download educational apps that support literacy learning in a fun way.
- If your child's school uses online textbooks, ask for access so you can follow along at home. If your child uses assistive technology in school, make sure their IEP allows them to bring their devices home, too.