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"Simple Things You Can Do to Help All Children Read Well..."

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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 of Education.

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 site.

"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 home languages.


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. Those include:

  • 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 it.


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 their participation.
  • 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 to reading.


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 have outgrown.
  • 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 special needs.
  • 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 and numbers.
  • 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
Education World®
Copyright © 1998, 2005 Education World

Originally published 1998
Links last updated 01/18/2005