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Sevierville retired teacher gives parents reading tips for kids

One out of three Tennessee third graders can read at the level they should, according to the Governor’s Office.
Published: Feb. 1, 2021 at 6:56 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - One out of three Tennessee third-graders can read at the level they should, according to Governor Bill Lee’s office. That means the other two students cannot.

“It’s very disheartening for us as parents, and it’s hard to see her go through it,” said Katie Anstett.

Anstett’s nine-year-old daughter, Harper, has always had trouble reading.

Anstett explained, “She can’t really read very well. She can do some very simple words, but once they get past the simple ones she really struggles.”

The Knox County Schools third-grader tried phonics flashcards and still gets extra help, but that’s not helped fully yet.

“We try to do stuff on the TV even like, ‘hey, what does that say’,” explained Anstett, “She still struggles with it because I just think she looks at it, and she gets overwhelmed really fast with the fact that she can’t figure it out right away like other kids her age can.”

Harper is not alone.

“It’s always been tough,” said Harriet Berrier, a retired Sevierville Primary School teacher who worked there for 39 years. “Our third-graders always struggled.”

She said third grade is a big jump to harder material.

Berrier had suggestions for Anstett and any parent who wanted to help their kid outside the classroom.

“I think one of the most important things is for them to let the children know how important it is and how reading fits into everything,” said Berrier.

Berrier also recommended letting students choose what they like to read. Take a room for example, in my living room I have DVDs and motivational quotes. These are two options that aren’t books or magazines. Also, don’t be afraid to praise your kids.

“I think the more you brag on them, you know, ‘That was really good. I liked how you did that.’ Those types of things I don’t think they get enough of,” said Berrier.

Listen to them read, read to them and pause to ask questions. All this can pique their interest more.

“A lot of people can just read through it, but you’ve got to understand what you’re reading,” said Berrier.

Anstett’s optimistic Harper can make even the smallest steps of progress to move onto fourth grade.

“I’m hoping that by the end of the school year that she’s caught up some,” explained Anstett, “I don’t know that we’ll necessarily get as far as we want to, but I think just making any progress at this point will show her that she can do it and hopefully lower her anxiety about school.”

Two state bills have passed to help students soar in reading. One requires interventions for struggling students including after-school learning camps and summer programs set to begin this summer. It also created the Tennessee accelerated literacy and learning corps to tutor students throughout the school year. It will also be tougher for kids to move from one grade to the next unless they show reading proficiency.

The second ensures local education agencies use a phonics-based approach for Kindergarten through third-grade reading instruction, established a reading screener for an adult to identify when students need help before third grade and provide training for teachers to teach phonics-based reading.

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