Preliminary numbers show thousands of SC 3rd graders can’t read at grade level

Preliminary numbers show thousands of SC 3rd graders can’t read at grade level

RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WIS) - The Richland County Library is offering a pilot program designed to help students both entering and exiting third grade sharpen their reading skills - and early testing results show why it's needed.

Reading skills are a big deal, with new South Carolina Department of Education preliminary numbers from test results showing that nearly 4,000 third graders tested below proficient in reading this last school year.

The early data shows 19 percent of third graders in the Lexington 4 School District scored proficient - the highest in the Midlands. Lexington 1 students scored the best with just five percent of students testing below grade level.

The class is currently offered at the library's main location and is the product of parents concerned about their children's reading abilities.

"We've had parents coming to the library who seemed nervous about their children going into the third grade or coming out and not reading at grade level yet," Laura Rogers, a librarian, said. "We have multi-sensory material so it's all based on evidence-based research and brain research so we're using things that appeal to different senses."

The summer program is five weeks long and is so popular, the library had to turn people away. As result, it plans to hold another six-week program in the fall.

The program targets a pivotal year for students, according to Emily Johansson, a librarian who also teaches the course.

"We switch from learning to read to reading to learn," she said. "So if children aren't reading at that age, they fall behind in school because they can't comprehend what they're reading."

That fear is coupled with legislation enacted into law in 2014 by then Governor Nikki Haley. "Read To Succeed" is a comprehensive reading reform policy aimed at "ensuring South Carolina's students graduate on time with the literacy skills they need to be successful in college, careers, and citizenship."

Beginning in the 2017-18 school year, the law requires a student be retained in third grade if they fail to read at grade level by the end of the school year. It's a fear for many parents with children who struggle with literacy.

Destra Capers' son, Kaden, takes part in the library's program. As a rising third grader, Capers said he reads at below grade level.

"We've always noticed his confidence wasn't the greatest when it came to reading," she said. "Any type of exposure to reading, reading out loud, because he likes to read in his head, is very pivotal to him. Just to make sure he's getting the fluency he needs and the comprehension he needs."

The program consists of five, one-hour classes that focus on the needs of the ten students within the class. This summer, the focus is on vowel sounds.

"Children who aren't reading on grade level miss out on so much vocabulary and interesting stories they could take in, but children can listen to books well above their reading level and should," Rogers said.

According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, seven out of every 10 prison inmates cannot read above a fourth-grade level. Additionally, high school dropouts make up 75 percent of citizens receiving food stamps and 90 percent of Americans on welfare.

Capers' son Kaden enjoys the weekly, one-hour class.

"When I read I feel like I'm somewhere else," he said. "The class is fun if you like reading."

Capers' also said she's learned to let her son pick out books he's interested in reading, rather than forcing him to read books he doesn't care to read.

"If you can get a boy to fall in love with reading which is connected to every other subject, you can really change the trajectory of their lives," she said.

Wendy Early's 8-year-old son Jacob is a friend of Kaden's and is also taking part in the class. While Jacob is reading above grade level, she wants him to remain sharp on his skills during the three-month summer break.

"He enjoys reading anyways, so I wanted to make sure that's one of the things he has to do especially since when he goes back to school," she said. "When he goes back to school, many of the classes have them do the required reading, so I don't want him to fall behind."

Jacob, like Kaden, enjoys reading graphic novels and comic books. Still, he said he could use some help with vowel sounds, which the class focuses on.

"We're learning about our vowels in class and it's actually pretty fun," he said. "So we're in these groups and in my group, we're studying how the word is a vowel or how it's not a vowel."

Both boys said at the end of each class, they seek new books they're interested in reading at home thanks to the skills they learn within the program.

If you are interested in registering your child for the fall Third Grade Reading Skills series, check the Richland County Library's website for events like this one in the coming months for more details. If you have a specific question about the series or are interested in other services and programs available, call the library's main location at (803)-799-9084.

Test results

The early data shows 19 percent of third graders in the Lexington 4 School District scored proficient - the highest in the Midlands. Lexington 1 students scored the best with just five percent of students testing below grade level.

Here are the preliminary numbers from each county:

And here is a fact sheet for parents to use:

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