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The real reason why kids struggle with math in grade 5? Reading and comprehension.

Students who do not ‘learn to read’ in the first three grade levels in schools face an enormous difficulty when they are eventually asked to ‘read to learn’ at higher grade levels.  When children do not learn basic read and write literacy skills, comprehension of new concepts becomes very difficult and they lose out on learning in subjects like math and history.

“The crisis of learning simultaneously affects the economy of the country and millions of children and youth in India” Madhav Chavan, CEO-President Pratham Education Foundation, makes this key statement in his article “Old Challenges for A New Generation”.

Reading Crisis

At a parent-teacher meeting recently, in a local affordable private school in Mumbai, one of the many parents there was expressing some concern about her lively son. She was distraught about her son’s school performance. “He can’t read a grade 2 book!” was her complaint. Her son, otherwise very active and seemingly bright, currently in 5th grade, cannot read or form basic sentences in English. His teacher had called the parent in to share this concern. The parent was naturally very worried about it. She expressed not only concern but a deep rooted fear that her son was losing out on his school learning and his shot at a good future. This parent’s worries, make up what is a raging global concern on reading abilities achieved at primary grade level.

Reading stats_India

Lets Look at the Causes

Why are kids in government and some private schools, struggling to read?

  1. Substandard reading material – Reading materials and resources in schools do not include sections like phonetics, reading comprehension and vocabulary building which are important for building reading skills.
  2. Lack of trained teaching staff – Teachers are just not trained enough to impart reading and literacy skills to their students.
  3. Failure to use teaching aids and technology –Many classrooms in India are technologically behind in their teaching practices.
  4. Culture of reading – kids are not in the practice of reading, whether at home or in school.

Year after year, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) conducts research that shows us that more than 50% of the students in government schools are unable to read text books of lower grades. These reports indicate that every second Class 5 student in rural India can’t read the text of a three grade levels below. 

Bridging the gap

Technology appears to be well positioned to help build literacy skills in students by making rigorous academic content accessible to students of all language levels, addressing social and emotional aspects of language learning, enabling language learning experiences that are authentic and culturally relevant, and increasing opportunities for engagement with parents and families.

Some great examples include Newsela that provides leveled and adaptive reading for new learners, LearnZillion that’s helping US based teachers deliver new and better curriculum in the classroom, BrainPOP and Flocabulary with tools for students to learn. At Zaya, we’ve developed English Duniya a fun way for students in India to learn English with Hindi. The lesson plans are customised for every child and are based on his learning pattern and skill level. Pratham Storyweaver makes great stories in different Indian languages across different reading levels, which is also available on Zaya’s ClassCloud. You can take a look at all the great products out there and decide what is best for your school or kids!

Reading is basic skill, needed to develop imagination and foster learning, help comprehension and retention, and transact valuable information. Without this key skill, children are likely to grow up, without even the ability to learn, an issue that has epic consequences on an individual’s ability to get a job, earn a living and guarantee herself any social security.

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