Rule #9:
Make Certain That
Your Child Is NOT
Reading at Grade Level

If you really want your kids to hate school, one of the best ways to do it is to make sure that they feel like a failure for most of the school day. Nobody wants to hang out where they feel incompetent or stupid. How do you guarantee that your kids will feel this way at school? Make certain that they are poor readers.

We all agree that reading is important, but if you haven’t been in an elementary school classroom lately, you may not realize that Reading Is King, Queen & The Whole Ball of Wax. It’s reading, reading, reading six hours a day, five days a week. Students read during Language Arts, math, social studies, science- sometimes they even have to read in PE (what is the world coming to?)! Students read in small groups, with partners, with the teacher. They read out loud, with the whole class (choral reading) and silently (supposedly). They read tests, what’s on the board, journals, handouts, worksheets and the school newspaper. If you are a strong reader, it’s all good.

For struggling readers, school is absolute, non-stop torture.

We’ve been together awhile now, and it is pretty clear how I feel about students accepting responsibility. I have said that parents must step back and allow children to learn their own lessons, do it themselves, suffer the consequences. Parents must stop hovering, micromanaging, enabling.

But, not when it comes to reading!

Reading proficiency is one area in which parents need to jump in with both feet and make a Big Splash. Your kids MUST read well. They must read at or, preferably, above grade level as soon as possible. Everything else- soccer, scouts, ballet- is secondary to reading well. They cannot succeed in school without it.

You cannot “wait around and see” if their reading improves somehow.

Every day that your child struggles as a reader is one more unbearable day of feeling badly about themselves, not liking school, and falling further behind. Each day that passes makes it more difficult and unlikely that your child will ever read at grade-level. They must be a strong, grade-level reader- and you must be the one to see that it happens. NOW!

Let’s make absolutely certain that we understand this.

We can make sure that our kids go to bed; we can feed them a healthy breakfast; we can get them to school on time carrying the world’s most nutritious lunch and the project that they completed entirely on their own; we can remind them to take the bus to their dentist appointment after school; we can smile at their teacher (who we really don’t like, but our kids don’t know that)… we can do all this and more, but if our kids CAN’T READ WELL, they won’t want to be at school. They will feel like failures every day.

Excuse me while I lie down for a moment.

I feel so strongly about parents doing whatever it takes to make certain that their children read well that I wrote a book to help them do it: Tutor Your Child to Reading Success. Most parents- the ones that can read, anyway- are perfectly capable of bringing their children’s reading level up so they can sail through the day and feel good about themselves.

And, that’s what it’s all about: feeling good about themselves.

Children that read well are more likey to have that high self-esteem we were talking about earlier, plus:

◘ enjoy school

◘ read for pleasure as adults

◘ have fewer behavior problems

◘ have fewer illnesses and missed school days

◘ choose the “right” kind of friends

◘ finish high school and attend college

◘ earn more money over their entire lifetimes (and, hopefully, not end up living in your basement)

Students that read below grade-level, on the other had, are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem (now you know why) and:

□ not like school

□ have more behavior problems

□ suffer from higher levels of stress and illness

□ miss more days of school

□ drop out of high school

□ engage in criminal behavior (we’re talking prison)

□ aren't as able to compete in the job market, which means less lifetime earning

As if all this weren’t INSANE enough, here’s something else to blow your mind: children that are perceived to be good readers by their classmates are believed to be smart in every other subject, including “non-academic” subjects such as PE and music. Did you hear that? If your classmates think you are a good reader, they think you are good at everything else as well. It doesn’t matter if they are correct (you could be a so-so reader); if the buzz is that you are a good reader, then you are one smart cookie. Your classmates will accept you as an intellectual leader- with all of the inherent perks and benefits.

Parents, we are not talking about being popular in a vapid Paris Hilton kind of way. This is about being admired and respected for being competent and smart. And, like it or not, we can tell our kids day after day how bright they are, but they will only truly believe it when they feel smart at school and others treat them that way.

It all comes from reading!

Parents need to fill a child’s bucket of self-esteem so high that the rest of the world can’t poke enough holes
to drain it dry.
- Alvin Price

Want to read more?

Return to advice for parents.

Go on to Rule #10.