What the new Third Grade Reading Law means for you and your family

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.-- If your third grader isn't a strong enough reader, they might not be able to go onto fourth grade.

It's a new state law that goes into effect this school year.

According to research from Michigan State University, between 2,000 and 2,500 third graders, or roughly 2 to 5%, are at risk of being held back because of Michigan's 'Read by Grade Three' law.

But, there is some encouraging news. Teachers and administrators at Grand Rapids Public Schools have been working since the state legislature passed the law in 2016 to make sure your child can keep up.

"Making sure to build in any types of interventions so that students who are not progressing at the speed that they need to, or the rate that they need to, get what they need," explained Bridget Cheney, executive director of Grand Rapids Public Schools Elementary K-8 buildings.

Within the first few weeks of the new school year, teachers will assess students on their reading skills and give individualized plans to kids at-risk of falling behind.

"I think parents should know that teachers are constantly looking at the data," said Sarah Collie, a second grade teacher at Harrison Park Elementary.

"For instance, what is their student struggling in and how can I help them?"

In fact, reading was top priority for Collie's students over the summer.

"This year, for summer school, it was strictly second grade. And, instead of it just being reading and math, it was strictly reading. It was open to all second grade students," Collie said.

She says helping your child become a strong reader is as simple as setting aside 20 minutes a day for books. But, it doesn't have to stop there.

"Even if you’re driving in the car somewhere, picking out road signs, picking out signs that are up on billboards, things like that. So that kids, they can see print everywhere," Cheney added.

There are a number of exceptions to this new reading law if your child is struggling to keep up.

"Are they proficient in social studies, science, and math? Can they show us a portfolio of work that shows that yes, they are in fact proficient, they just didn’t hit the proficiency mark on the m-step," Cheney explained.

Bottom line, educators say it's a group effort.

"If we had a whole entire community that said to one another, hi, how are you today, what are you reading? I think it just builds that excitement for reading. And, we become a reading community where literacy is at the forefront of everybody’s minds." Cheney said.

Parents and adults should always remember that kids look up to us, so it's important that we also practice what we preach. If kids see us reading and enjoying doing so, they're going to want to do the same.

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