This week, we have been reviewing and finalizing our first set of interim reports, which will go home with students next week. In keeping with the approach of Hallowe’en, these first reports can sometimes be anticipated as “frightening”. It is important for everyone to understand that progress reports are really just a snapshot in time that help teachers share observations and results of early assessments. By the time late October arrives, the “settling in” period is complete and, in the vast majority of cases, students are tracking well on the path to success. I am very pleased with the excellent beginning and responsible attitude of our students this fall.
When we discuss student progress, teachers often refer to the “whole child”, which is a way of emphasizing that our work with children attempts to capture every aspect of their learning in school. This is especially important in the elementary grades where it is so crucial that we all remember that any child is more than the sum of his or her parts. Our sons and daughters are more than that average of 85% in history, 79% in math and 88% in English! One of the most important things about assessing and reporting on children is getting this “whole child” perspective right. We live in a world that likes to break things down into their constituent parts in order to compare and contrast. When it comes to our kids, however, the real emphasis should be on comparison between where each has been, where each is now and where each must strive to go next. This is best considered in the context of the whole child, a unique human being, who is a complete and integrated learner.
Nowhere is this truer than in the area of learning to read. Arguably the most essential academic skill upon which all others are built, it is sometimes easy to lose sight of the fact that reading is actually a developmental skill (i.e., one that develops individually within a specific time frame). For us parents, watching a child become an independent reader can be both an exciting and anxious time, especially if we see that other children (classmates, nieces and nephews, friends and neighbours) seem to be becoming readers overnight while our child appears to be languishing. This is when it is important to remember that each child is different. Much like learning to walk, children will take their first “reading steps” in their own time and these may differ noticeably among children in the same class or same family – much like learning to walk. One will take his first steps at 11 months; another at 18 months, but both will be equally skilled walkers in time.
Are you concerned that your child is behind in some key early reading skills? Rest assured that learning in general does not progress in exactly the same way for all children. In most cases, differences are developmental and – in an “incubator” of literacy with the right conditions – readers emerge, crack the code and become confident independent readers.
There are many tools and techniques, approaches and advice, theories and drills that help develop literate little people. But the most important and effective support in the teaching of reading is time spent enjoying the signs, symbols, rhythms and miracle of language.
If you have concerns about emergent reading skills, share them with your child’s teacher, who will have advice on how best to assess and progress. And never forget how important moms and dads are in the overall process of learning to read, for, in the words of children’s author, Emilie Buchwald, “children are made readers on the laps of their parents.”
Ric Anderson, Head of School