I Can't Read! Will Anyone Help Me?

When you don’t know, you just don’t know. I went to school in the 80’s and 90’s in Baltimore City. Then, Baltimore City was known as “The City That Reads or Charm City.” To be honest neither of these statements are true today. This is not only true for Baltimore City, but many other school districts. Our kids are not reading on their grade level and know one can explain why. Can we place all of the blame on the parents? NO! Can we place all of the blame on the teachers? NO! Can we place any of the blame on the administration? ABSOLUTELY! Can we place all of the blame on the student? NO! Everyone is to blame when we’re trying to figure out why a child is not reading on their grade level. Here’s the breakdown and some examples.

Before I provide my breakdown and examples, I’m going to say the “No Child Left Behind Act” has destroyed our educational system. The NCLB act of 2002 required states to develop assessments in basic skills. To receive federal school funding, states had to give these assessments to all students at select grade levels. They say the purpose of it was to close the achievement gap with accountability, flexibility, and choice, so that NO CHILD IS LEFT BEHIND. In so many words, they couldn’t hold a student back. Even though in 2015 congress stripped away the national features of NCLB, they replaced it with the, Every Student Succeeds Act and turned it over to the state. This new law was just a name change in my eyes. A lot of people may disagree with me, but I said what I said. Now here’s my breakdown and my examples.

Who’s to blame?

Parents: What is the job of a parent? As a parent we have multiple jobs. It doesn’t matter if you’re a single parent or if you have a spouse in the house helping, a parent has a lot of jobs. You’re a doctor in the middle of the night. You have received the job of a cook for kids that most of the time don’t appreciate what you cook. Even though you’re not doing it to make money, you’re a financial adviser when you pay bills. Even without a degree, you have become a counselor. You volunteer to Uber your kids around. You’re a maid, hairdresser, teacher, personal stylist and a referee at times. We have so many jobs and at times we don’t feel like doing any of them, but we do. What do we do as parents when we have become so overwhelmed with life that we don’t have time to focus on school work? Most parents wake up, get the kids ready for school and make their way to work. By the time we get home, we’re exhausted and don’t even want to look at anything. Is that an excuse? No! Some parents may be very angry with me about this, but we have to stop making excuses as to why we don’t have time to help our children with their school work. Why are we making excuses as to why their Christmas gifts are all electronics and no books? There are no trips to the library. It’s very easy as a parent to say, “it’s the school’s fault” instead of saying, “I need to help my child be better.”

As a single mom for the past 14 years, I know the struggle. I know what it’s like to wake up at 6:00 and sometimes 5:00 in the morning. When my son was in elementary school, I was getting myself dressed for work, making sure his clothes were ironed and ready for him to get dressed. I had to fix breakfast because he didn’t get free breakfast or lunch in school. While he’s eating breakfast, I was fixing his lunch and my lunch. After all of that, now I’m making my way to the school to sit in a carpool line before I drop him off. I was taking a late lunch break to pick him up from school and drop him off at daycare because she didn’t provide pickup services. I return back to work and continue to deal with the crazy folks I worked with. I look at the clock and it’s time to go home. I drive to daycare, then home and my day is not over. Before I started cooking dinner or sat down to get some rest, I checked my son’s homework. On most days he was able to do his homework at daycare, but even than I still checked it. Every day and I mean Sunday through Saturday, I made my son read for at least 30 minutes a day. We took bi-weekly trips to the library. For Christmas yes, I did buy him electronics, but he also received several new books to read. During this time, I was working in a stressful environment and attending college for my bachelors and master’s degree. Life is tough as a parent, but it’s even harder when our children becomes a statistic.

Example time: I have a child that’s in the 5th grade, but she’s only reading on a 2nd grade level. The teacher may or may not have told me about this. The one way I would know is if I took the time out to sat at the dinner table and help my 5th grader with her homework. This would be a great time to see how she reads and write. What if as a parent I recognized my child’s inability to read first? What if I was the one that brought it to the school’s attention? What if I took the time out to help with homework? There are a lot of what if’s, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Making sure our children are successful will take the entire village. Homework time or reading time is really the only time a working parent can find out how well their child reads.

Teacher: During the day a teacher has lot of jobs also. Some of them become mothers, fathers, confidant, and disciplinarian. The average public-school classroom could have almost 20 students or more in it and they rarely have an assistant in the class. You have a classroom where there are students that’s eager to learn, but they may be sitting next to a very disruptive student. The teacher has to constantly stop the lesson to focus on this student with the behavior issue. What if the teacher has a class with five students that have some type of behavior issue? How can they possibly teach a full lesson in a day if they have to continue to stop and be a disciplinarian? Now everyone can say it’s the teacher’s fault because he or she should have recognized the signs or they could have done a better job in the classroom. Do you think it’s easy as a teacher to have to explain to a parent that their child is not succeeding in the classroom? Despite the one on one attention given, they’re just not getting it. On the other hand, teachers have to take some responsibility in why a child is not reading on their level. Why? Students are primarily with their teacher more during the week then they are with their parents. I have witnessed and heard about times where a teacher recognized a problem, but didn’t call the parent until the problem was out of control. As a parent I witnessed this with my own child. For my son it wasn’t about his work, but behavior. According to an email I received, his teacher said since the beginning of basketball season (which is in November) he has not been focused. I received this email two weeks before the quarter closed (in February.) Needless to say, she caught the raft of my parenthood. This small example is the reason why teachers should be saying something as soon as the problem comes to surface. Allow the parents to get a handle on it before things spiral out of control. Being a teacher is hard because every day you’re dealing with multiple personalities from students and some days you never know which one you will receive. Our teachers are part of our village, but we as parents have to meet them on the corner to work together.

Example time: Student A is called on in class to read a sentence and he refuses to read. The teacher knows he’s not shy because he has answered questions before. She calls on another student, but doesn’t inquire later with the student as to why he was afraid to read aloud. On day 2, the student is supposed to be doing an independent assignment that requires them to read a sentence in order to answer. The teacher walks around and notice Student A has nothing on his paper. She doesn’t say anything. The teacher collects the paper and when she’s grading it that night, she notices the student did answer the questions, but the answers had nothing to do with the questions on the assignment. The teacher thinks back to other work this student has done and realize there is a pattern with giving an answer to a question that has nothing to do with the assignment. She also notices this is only happening on the reading assignments. This teacher does nothing except put a bad grade in the system and email the parent to tell them to make sure their child is doing their homework. This happens a lot and it’s sad. We can make up every excuse, but there is none that is valid enough. When the signs, even small ones are there, a parent should be notified.

Administration: I love the administration in schools because they keep things going, but I tell you something has to give. I’m just going to say that I don’t know who idea it was to give out all of these tests during the school year. In elementary school mainly it seems like there is some type of statewide test being administered every month or two. I can understand a test in the beginning of the school year and one towards the end, but it’s so many in between. The administration has to be the middle person between the parents and teachers. They have to protect our teachers, but they also have to be sensitive to the parents. Most importantly they have to advocate for our children when the people sitting high up is making horrible decisions for our school systems.

Children: As I come to the end of my blog, our babies can share some of the blame, but a very small part. The only part of the blame I’m going to give them is not speaking up. We as parents have to be sure that we’re teaching our kids to speak up when they feel like they’re struggling with any type of school work. This is why I’m giving them a small part of the blame because if they’re not taught to speak up, they won’t

This blog was not written to destroy anyone’s character. It wasn’t created to put down any parents, teachers, administration or children. My goal is to bring about awareness to a problem, not many is addressing. Our children of all ages are facing a major literacy issue. They’re not reading on their grade level, but they are being passed along for funding. If you don’t have a high rate of kids moving forward, you don’t get funding. It’s sad, but it is very true. My goal is to help fix the literacy problem one student at a time. I want to see every child succeed and be given the same chance as other students no matter what. As a business owner of a publishing company, I am an advocate of reading and writing. In 2018 I created a writing program called When Children Write. The purpose of the program is to get kids excited about reading and writing through book publishing. Every student that comes through my program will become a published author. This is the first major step to falling in love with reading and writing. If you have a child that’s interested in learning more about becoming a published author, please visit www.whenchildrenwrite.com to schedule a consultation with me. If your school or organization is interested in adding When Children Write to your in or after school program, please email us at info@whenchildrenwrite.com.

Leslie Crawford

The Literacy Fixer



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