If you're here, it's a pretty safe bet that you're a fan of reading. It's also likely that you understand how important it is for kids to learn to read well in early elementary school so they're positioned for academic success through middle school and beyond.
The following facts about reading might surprise you. But they also help highlight why programs like STAIR-Annapolis make a real difference in the lives of young readers.
1. Too many students don't read well enough to succeed.
According to the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the only assessment tool that measures American students' knowledge and aptitude in a variety of subjects, 35% of public school 4th graders read below basic achievement level, meaning they have only "partial mastery of the prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work" at grade level. You can read more about the NAEP assessment reports here.
The STAIR program works exclusively with second graders reading below grade level. We know how important it is that striving young readers get the extra support they need to catch up to their peers and achieve proficiency before they enter the more academically rigorous middle grades.
2. The "achievement gap" is real...and it matters.
Students who start kindergarten academically behind their peers often keep falling farther behind as they move through school. Language differences, limited exposure to books, and lack of prior knowledge have all been proven to contribute to some kids' reading difficulties. What's more, certain groups of students are far more susceptible to these differences--and corresponding reading challenges--than others.
STAIR targets students at the beginning of their reading adventure, before they have a chance to fall too far behind. We provide new books for home libraries, so kids always have access to high-quality, diverse reading material that matches their interests, and our volunteers are trained to support Anne Arundel County Schools literacy curriculum in an encouraging, one-on-one environment.
3. Learning to read is a complicated process.
Kids need to develop tons of skills simultaneously in order to learn to read well. In a 1990 study, educational researcher Marilyn Adams likened the process of learning to read to operating a car. But if reading is like driving, emerging readers also need to learn to:
- Build the car (learn to identify letters, words, and sounds)
- Service the car (gain access to a steady stream of reading material of increasing difficulty)
- Drive the car (stay focused, motivated, and on track)
Adams went on to say that unlike building a car, reading doesn't happen on an assembly line, with one piece fitting into the next until the car is complete. "Rather, the parts of the reading system must grow together. They must grow on one another and from one another." That can be a lot for a five- or six-year-old to manage! (Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning About Print by Marilyn Jager Adams)
The STAIR curriculum is built to help kids progress through all the moving parts of literacy development. With structured lesson plans, reading games, books, and the passion, creativity, and dedication of our volunteers, kids are able to work on the skills they need to become stronger, more confident readers.
4. Phonics is crucial to reading success.
Studies have shown that kids who struggle to read well very often have difficulty understanding that the sounds they hear in words are linked to specific letters and letter patterns.
When kids don't have a solid foundation in phonics and phonemic awareness--the principle that teaches that words are made up of letter sounds--they may have trouble gaining grade-level reading proficiency.
The STAIR-Annapolis curriculum helps kids strengthen their phonemic awareness. Our program supports Anne Arundel County Public Schools phonics instruction, giving young readers the building blocks for lifelong academic success.
5. A little extra help goes a long way.
The vast majority of below-grade level readers benefit significantly from programs and interventions that let them practice literacy skills like accuracy, fluency, phonemic awareness, and reading comprehension. With a little extra support, these students are often able to reach grade-level achievement or better in a relatively short period of time.
At STAIR, we've seen our students improve an average of more than four Fountas & Pinnell reading levels in a single academic year! Programs like STAIR give striving readers access to one-on-one attention and educator-approved strategies to help significantly boost their reading skills and their self-confidence.
For even more insight into developing readers and the importance of literacy intervention and support programs like STAIR-Annapolis, visit our friends at Reading Rockets.