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Simple Things You Can Do to Help All Children Read Well and Independently by the End of Third Grade is a booklet from the U.S. Department of Education. The booklet provides ideas for involving community groups, local companies and universities, the media, and others in achieving your school's reading goals.
Are you taking advantage of all the possibilities when it comes to meeting
your school's goal of "teaching all children to read well and independently
by the end of third grade"? Tips for involving the entire community --
including families, child-care providers, schools, librarians, senior
citizens, cultural and religious organizations, universities, employers,
and the media -- are included in a 26-page booklet from the U.S. Department
You can read the entire booklet, Simple
Things You Can Do to Help All Children Read Well and Independently by
the End of Third Grade, on the U.S. Department of Education's Web
"Everyone has something important to contribute to the America Reads
Challenge," states the preface to the booklet. "You can change the life
of a child by reading daily to your own child, by serving as a tutor in
your community to another child, or by joining together with other members
of your community to start or expand a local literacy program. ... Whether
you help as an individual, or join with others, every contribution toward
this effort makes a difference in the future of our children."
Education World offers excerpts from the booklet. These excerpts provide
school administrators with practical ideas for getting the entire community
to participate in the school's goal of developing good, independent readers.
One final note to administrators: Schools can't do it all on
their own -- but don't expect local organizations to approach you. You
might have to shoulder responsibility for getting the ball rolling. Share
with different groups in your community the pages of this booklet that
relate to them. Then get out there and get them involved! Everybody
-- especially your students -- will benefit!
Ideas in the booklet Simple Things You Can Do to Help a Child Read
Well are presented under the following headings:
The booklet offers fourteen ideas for involving families in reaching
your school's reading goals. Among them:
- Read to and with your children for 30 minutes every day. It
is very important to read out loud to your children before they start
school. Help your children to read with you. Ask them to find letters
and words on the page and talk with your children about the story.
- Talk with infants and young children before they learn to read.
Talk with your children all day long, using short, simple sentences.
Talking with them even before they can speak will help them later when
they learn to read and write.
- Help your children to read on their own. Reading at home helps
children do better in school. Have lots of children's books in your
home and visit the library every week. Help your children get their
own library cards and let them pick out their own books.
- Help your child to see that reading is important. Suggest reading
as a free-time activity. Make sure your children have time in their
day to read. Set a good example for your children by reading newspapers,
magazines, and books.
- Restrict the amount and kind of TV your children watch. Watch
educational TV programs with your children that teach letter sounds
and words or give information about nature and science.
Among the booklet's ten tips for child-care providers are these three:
- Read to infants even before they are able to talk. Make books
part of your one-on-one time with babies. Although they don't always
understand exactly what you are saying, babies love to listen to voices.
Over time, babies will associate pleasant feelings with books and reading.
- Read with children about their native culture. Children often
respond well to stories about their own cultures. This practice also
exposes other children to cultures different from their own. In addition,
offer books without words so children can make up their own stories
to go with the pictures.
- Teach children rhymes, songs, and poems. Make up stories about
children in the group and include their names in familiar songs. Ask
families to help you learn songs, poems, and stories in the children's
This section of the booklet is broken down into three parts -- a part
for school personnel and staff, one for teachers, and one for administrators.
Among the 16 tips offered are these three for administrators:
- Encourage your teachers to work together to teach reading and writing
across all the subjects. Encourage them to develop interdisciplinary
courses. Provide opportunities for special educators to share with general
educators effective strategies for working with students who have learning
challenges. Introduce challenging reading and writing activities and
provide technology to engage all students.
- Establish a family literacy program. Provide literacy, parenting,
and early childhood education programs for language-minority families
and other families with literacy needs and their children. Devote a
PTA meeting to how to become a reading tutor and to inform parents of
effective methods of reading with their children. Send home information
about these programs in the family's native language, where necessary.
- Implement systematic and routine homework schedules. Help families
know what to expect of their children regularly and how to monitor assignments.
Ensure that all teachers regularly assign challenging homework. Develop
and send home a sheet of suggestions for families about how to help
their children with their schoolwork.
The booklet offers ten ways librarians can get involved to promote literacy.
- Learn more about the America Reads Challenge. Call 1-800-USA-LEARN
for fliers on the America Reads Challenge and READ*WRITE*NOW! and provide
them to the public. Contact your local READ*WRITE*NOW! program and see
how your library can help.
- Work with local partners to start a community reading program.
One good way to begin is to set up an America Reads Challenge: READ*WRITE*NOW!
program. Identify quality reading materials for the program. Look into
providing materials in Braille, large-print texts, books on tape. Use
communication specialists such as sign-language interpreters. Establish
structured learning time at the library to give children who need extra
help opportunities to become successful readers. Volunteer to train
tutors or serve as a community coordinator. Offer the library as a safe
site for the community program. Promote a special sign-up day for children
to come in and get their own library cards.
- Expand your library's resources, particularly computers and children's
software programs. Let families and children know that the Internet
offers them a wealth of free information. Offer free introductory sessions
on how to use these resources. Include equipment and software for children
with physical and learning disabilities.
Among the six ideas highlighted in the booklet are these two:
- Become a learning partner/reading tutor to a child in your neighborhood
or from your local elementary school. Volunteer to read with or
to a child for 30 minutes a week for at least eight weeks. Take the
child to the library to get him or her a library card.
- Develop a monthly program at your library, school, or community
center in which seniors discuss their oral histories with children.
Speak with local retirement homes and senior centers to enlist seniors
who would be willing to tell children a highlight of their life stories.
Arrange for a location where the program can be held, and advertise
The Department of Education booklets offers 11 ideas for getting organizations
involved in developing children's reading skills, including these four:
- Start a community reading program. One good way to begin is
to set up a summer America Reads Challenge: READ*WRITE*NOW! program.
Encourage your members or staff to volunteer as tutors. Provide transportation
for children and tutors. Offer your organization's building as a safe
site in which the program can take place.
- Work with preschool children. Donate children's books to an
early childhood center, mothers' day out program, or parent/child play
group. Organize a program in which members volunteer to read to children
in these programs each week.
- Hold an essay or speech contest among local children on the topic
of how "Reading Has Made a Difference in My Life." These stories
can reinforce the benefits of learning to read and help set high reading
standards. Offer a small prize related to literacy, such as a reference
book or a bookstore gift certificate.
- Cooperate with other community organizations and school staff on
reading activities for students. Rarely can one organization or
individual "do it all." Contact other community organizations that have
different expertise from your own. Ask for and offer help to improve
and expand your reading activities. Contact other reading programs and
school staff for guidance.
The booklet provides 15 ways for university students, faculty, and administrators
to get involved in local schools' literacy efforts. Those include the
following four ideas directed at university administrators:
- Assign and train Work-Study students as reading tutors. Increase
the percentage of Work-Study slots that are reserved for reading tutoring.
The Secretary of Education has waived the matching requirement for students
serving as reading tutors to preschool and elementary schoolchildren.
This 100 percent federal funding of Federal Work- Study reading tutors
facilitates the participation of postsecondary institutions in the America
Reads Challenge. Contact the local school's reading specialist or a
local community-based organization such as Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCAs/YWCAs,
Girl Scouts, and AmeriCorps projects to help develop an effective training
program for Work-Study students.
- Provide space for local reading programs. Open classrooms or
lecture halls to literacy programs on weekends and other times when
they are not in use. Encourage students to volunteer as assistants.
- Sponsor an on-campus summer reading program for elementary school
children. Invite professors and qualified students to teach sessions.
Contact the community library and local reading programs to encourage
- Make campus computer resources available to local families and
their children. Open campus computer clusters to the public during
off-times. Offer free orientation sessions for people who have never
used the Internet before. Provide a list of educational sites related
The booklet includes thirteen ideas for getting local employers involved
in school reading programs, including these four:
- Establish a lending library in the workplace so that employees
can take books and other reading materials home to their children.
Contact the local library to obtain suggested children's book lists.
Ask employees to donate books and books on tape that their children
- Develop a program to bring children to your work site for tutoring.
Bringing children to the work site for tutoring gives them a safe place
to go after school hours, helps improve their schoolwork, and makes
mentoring and tutoring convenient for employees. Provide support for
training reading tutors both in schools and in the workplace. Contact
your local school district's special education department for assistance
on how to address and support the training of tutors for students with
- Establish a national program for employees to tutor, mentor, and
allow children to shadow model employees. Encourage each affiliate,
franchise, or company branch to get involved with its local schools
by tutoring or mentoring students. Allow students to shadow workers
for a day to understand how the skills they learn in school will someday
be used in the workplace.
- Provide books, videos, consultants, and other resources to schools.
Contact your local school's administrators to determine which resources
are most needed. Rebuild or refurbish school libraries so that they
become the center of the school's literacy activities. Help to guarantee
that schools have the most modern teaching materials, computers, books,
and videos. Ask the school administrator about whether there is a need
for your company to provide special materials/equipment for children
with special needs.
Among seven ways the media might help schools achieve their reading
goals are these three:
- Highlight successful reading programs. Cover stories about
literacy events sponsored by schools, libraries, AmeriCorps projects,
and communities and successful participants in them. Feature individual
success stories and "unsung tutoring heroes." Provide information on
how others can get involved.
- Start a Community Volunteer Alert Program. Publicize a weekly
listing of volunteer programs in need of tutors. Provide contact names
- Support local literacy programs by donating advertising space.
Produce a community public service announcement in support of reading.
Publicize recommended reading lists for books that families can read
with children of different ages.
Edited by Gary Hopkins
Copyright Â© 1998, 2005 Education World
Originally published 1998
Links last updated 01/18/2005