dsc_0060Margaret Wimborne, director of communication and community engagement, Idaho Falls School District

Reading is one of the most important things a child will learn during their first few years of school. If they don’t learn to read, they will likely struggle in school for years to come.

To ensure children are developing these important skills, Idaho has launched a new K-3 Literacy Intervention Program. The program is designed to ensure every child is reading at or above grade level by the end of third grade. In Idaho Falls School District 91, that means creating special reading plans for every child in grades kindergarten through third grade who isn’t meeting important reading benchmarks.

“We are looking at every individual child and developing a plan that addresses their specific needs,” said Kelly Coughenour, director of Elementary Education.

The Idaho Reading Indicator or IRI measures a child’s knowledge of letters and letter sounds, as well as how many words they read in a minute. Individualized reading plans are created for students in kindergarten through third grade who score a 1 or a 2 on the fall IRI. Students who score a 3 will not have an individualized reading plan, but will continue receiving the instruction they need to grow their reading skills.

The plans focus on basic skills such as helping students develop phonemic awareness, the ability to notice individual sounds in words; fluency, the ability to read with speed, accuracy and expression; and text comprehension, the understanding of what is being read.

Students who aren’t proficient on the IRI will receive targeted instruction during the school day or after school. “Struggling readers may receive additional instruction in foundational reading skills or additional time to practice these skills,” said Gail Rochelle, director of Student Achievement.

Another important component of the program is getting parents involved. The reading plans are reviewed with parents, and parents have the chance to provide input. They also receive information on the reading strategies teachers are using in the classroom, as well as tips on things they can do at home to help their children become better readers.

Some of the simple things parents can do include making time to read with their child every day, having books readily available and talking to their child about what they’re reading.

“Parents should be talking and reading to their children,” said Ethel Boyes principal, Pauline Alessi. “Building children’s vocabularies and helping them develop background knowledge is the key to providing children with the foundation they need to be a successful reader.”

Learn more about how your school is helping your child become a happy, confident reader by contacting your child’s teacher or checking Idaho Falls School District 91’s website at ifschools.org.

Here are some easy things you can do at home to help your child become a happy and confident reader:

Make time to read with your child every day. Read different kinds of things such as books, poems and magazines and discuss them. Ask your child what they thought about the story or how it made them feel, or what they liked about the main character.
Sing songs and read rhyming books to help your child think about the sounds in words.
Use your child’s name to show links between letters and sounds. “John, the word jump begins with the same sound as your name and the same letter.”
Play games to help your child learn the names of the letters and the sounds they make: “I’m thinking of a letter and it sounds like mmmm.”
Play sound games and practice blending sounds into words: “Can you guess what this word is: m-o-p?”
Be patient when your child is trying to sound out a new word.
Encourage your child to re-read favorite books. Doing this can help your child learn to read more quickly and accurately.