First-Graders Are Better Readers Than They Were a Decade Ago

Children entering first grade in 2013 had better skills than similar students 12 years prior, according to a new study.
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We all know that the more knowledge our children acquire, the more empowered they'll be. And perhaps the main way they can acquire that knowledge is through reading. That's just one reason it's so heartening to hear that kids entering first grade in 2013 had significantly better reading skills than similar students only 12 years earlier, according to a new nationwide study published in the journal Educational Researcher. The study involved 2,358 schools from 44 states and a total of 364,738 children, who were assessed over the course of the 12 years.

The researchers' conclusion is that today's children are better readers at a younger age, and bonus: Even low-achieving students' basic reading skills have improved and narrowed the achievement gap with other young readers. But of course, there are still areas for improvement, particularly when it comes to advanced reading skills. In fact, the gap between low-achieving readers and others has widened when it comes to those higher-level skills.

The study's results show that strategies to help preschoolers who are having trouble with language skills need to be adjusted, said co-author Emily Rodgers, associate professor of teaching and learning at The Ohio State University. In other words, Rodgers believes that instead of focusing so much on basic skills for low-achieving students, they should be given more chances to actually practice and read text.

However, the positive takeaway of the study—that kids are improving overall—can be attributed to changes in reading instruction that were made as a result of two national reports (the National Reading Panel in 2000 and the National Early Literacy Panel in 2008). Those reports, along with the No Child Left Behind law, led to more focus on learning important skills related to reading achievement in preschool and kindergarten, according to the researchers.

Now, as long as we keep our eye on the prize with helping low-achieving children continue to improve, our kids' reading skills—and empowerment!—will be in even more amazing shape.

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