Letter: Early learning is key to reading

The Detroit News

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has again demonstrated her inability to grasp the whole picture. Recently, she stated she would like to overturn the third-grade reading initiative that was put on the books (pun intended) in 2016.

The first group of students to be affected by this law will be this year’s second-graders. In April 2018 after administering the M-STEP test only 44 percent of the students demonstrated reading skills appropriate for their age. This would mean the children who tested lower will need to improve their skills to the third-grade level or repeat the grade again.

Third-grade students entering Michigan's K-12 public schools this fall will be subject to retention under the state's third-grade reading law if they are not reading at grade level on the state assessment in 2020.

According to Whitmer, this is a bad idea that does not fully engage the parents. I respectfully disagree. This law was not put together hastily. It was based on Florida’s and other states’ examples of how to improve reading comprehension at the elementary school level. It would be more productive if Whitmer would wait to see the outcomes before dismissing the idea and calling for the law to be taken off the books. 

Early education is key to getting children started on the right path of learning. Yet what legislators fail to realize that the answer to the problem of low reading skills is not only in formalized education but in time spent with children, one on one.

The Library of Michigan has done a tremendous job of focusing on this need in the month of March to help parents and caregivers remember the basics of helping children become readers.

The Ready to Read programs has helped libraries in Michigan to encourage parents to begin the steps to healthy reading habits for children from birth up to age 5. This ensures the development of early literacy skills and instills a love of reading. If Whitmer is so concerned with lack of parent involvement, perhaps she should take a look at what the Library of Michigan has successfully implemented. 

If the aim is to help young students get to the next level of reading success, it would be far better to look at practical and positive programs that have worked without throwing additional monies into the pot. Stripping the third-grade reading initiative from the books is not the answer. 

Lisa Valerio-Nowc, president and founder
Librarian At Large 
Clinton Township