The second week of school, Stevie’s third grade teacher stopped me in the hall. “What do you know about Stevie? He can’t read at all!”

What do I know about Stevie? Cute, stringy blonde hair that falls into his eyes, quirky endearing grin, and a struggling reader. I worked with him all last year. He started off second grade as a non-reader. That means he couldn’t read at all. Zilch. We had GEIT (General Education Intervention Team) meetings with his mom and every specialist imaginable to work out a plan to help him learn to read. And it worked. At the end of the year I gave him the DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment), and he scored WELL at Level 20 (a beginning second grade level). It was great progress for one year, and I felt encouraged about continuing that great progress to bring him up to grade level by the end of third grade. He would be a part of the third grade reading group that would begin in a couple weeks.

However, the beginning of third grade wasn’t starting off very well. After talking with his new teacher, I pulled Stevie out of class to talk.

“How was your summer? Tell me about it.”
“Fine. I went swimming.”
“Tell me about what you read this summer.”
“I didn’t read anything. I didn’t have any books.”
“You haven’t read anything at all since school was out in May?”
“I didn’t have any books.”

No reading at all for two and a half months – ten weeks of not looking at a single book.

I thought back to the last GEIT meeting in May. His mother had talked about how much she worked with him at home and how much she would continue to work with him. I didn’t believe it then, and I sure don’t believe it now.

I gave him the DRA again using the Alternative Text set. He struggled to barely make it to Level 14. I felt like crying. I doubt he felt much better.

FIVE MINUTES! Even five minutes of time each day during the summer of his mom or dad reading with him might have helped Stevie not lose the gains he made in second grade. Is five minutes too much time to ask parents to spend reading with their children? They took him swimming. He visited his grandparents. He played ball. Did they spend time arranging for and taking him to those activities? Where are their priorities? I don’t think reading with their child made it to their priority list – even at the bottom. The idea simply doesn’t appear on their radar.

So now I work with Stevie each day. He’s so far below the other struggling readers in third grade that I work with him by himself. I gave him a book bag, and I make sure that he takes home three or four of my books each evening. I can’t control whether or not his parents read with him at home, but at least I can make sure that the “I didn’t have any books to read” excuse is not valid for him again this year, and I can make sure that he reads a lot at school.

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11 Responses to “What are Parents Thinking?! (A Vent)”

  1. PASS THE TORCH (old site -- visit my new site at Says:

    links from Technoratithe award button to display on their site, as well as front page listing from me for a week. The Carnival of Education is up at The Median Sib, featuring my post, Email Teachers. Please visit for some thought-provoking reading. My picks this week areWhat Are Parents Thinking?and Last Regular Day. And Spunky Homeschool’s “Educational Moment” Contest is still open for entries until Friday night at midnight. You could win a digital camera from the Academic Superstore.

  2. Jane Says:

    Carol, I continue to be amazed by the lack of involvement of some parents in the life of their children. I will never forget Jared coming home from working in the after school program at our church and saying, “Mom, why do people have children if they don’t want to spend time with them”? This was from a 14 year old kid observing children who had been dropped off at child care before 7am and picked up at after school care at 6pm. He knew they would go home, eat dinner, finish homework and go to bed and start all over the next day. He found it appalling.
    Stevie is very fortunate to have a caring teacher like you to help him.

  3. Pass the Torch Says:

    I feel so sorry for kids like this. And to think there are so many out there. And teachers are supposed to deal with all that ails.

    I suppose some parents just don’t know any better. Some do the best they can. But that’s not always true. Jane’s comment above is so telling.

    Pass the Torch

  4. JSC Says:


    I am so proud of you — your insight and commitment to children is just very inspiring. Your dedication to the blog and the interesting entries just bring me back every day to see what’s new. I enjoy all the breadth — family, politics, education, current events; — you have it all!


  5. Ms Cornelius Says:

    That just infuriates me. The mother can read, can’t she? Is she holding down three jobs? What? Even five minutes would be worth everything.

  6. Stephanie Says:

    It isn’t a good explaination, but in my neck of the woods that mother lived up to her promise. Help begins and ends with the school year calendar. It never occurs to many parents (in this town) that reading is a skill that needs practice and that it is possible to read for pleasure. For them to even think about reading over the summer they would have to be specifically told that their child needs to read everyday during summer vacation, how much or long, and given a list of books available at the library–because they can’t or won’t spend the money. Extra points for next school year for the child’s next school year might get something read. As one neighbor told me ‘they won’t be reading when they get out of school anyway.’

    –Stephanie in AR

  7. The Median Sib Says:

    Carnival of Education – 85th Edition…

    Welcome to the 85th edition of the Carnival of Education. It’s my first time to host the carnival, and I’ve had a blast reading all the submissions. Education bloggers are a diverse group! Thanks to all the wonderful bloggers who are so …

  8. KDeRosa Says:

    I’m going to politely disagree with the prevailing wisdom.

    There most likely explanation for a regression of that magnitude over the summer is that the student never adequately learned the material in the first place. It is unlikely that reading five minutes a day would have made much of a difference.

    A student who has mastered the material in the spring can go the entire summer without practice and would be able to pick up almost where he left off (within five lessons). To the extent some material was forgotten there would be a savings relearning it.

    See Student-Program Alignment and Teaching to Mastery p. 16.

  9. christina Says:

    well guess what jane and kelly, some of us don’t have a CHOICE about childcare. it has absolutely NOTHING to do with whether or not a parent wants to be with their child; sometimes they have to have them in daycare for extended hours because of something called a job. ever hear of single parents?

    that has absolutely no bearing on whether they are good parents or not. i spend plenty of time working with my daughter on her schoolwork and she’s years ahead of her age group in reading.

    on the subject however, i think it’s appalling that parents take so little interest in their children’s education. they’re doing their children such a disservice.

    believe me, you’ll find crappy parenting in all kinds of families. whether the child(ren) has one parent at home or both parents work or if they’re in a single parent home. unfortunately, many americans place little importance on education.

  10. Cathy in the San Juans Says:

    As a mother of a “challenged reader” I was compelled to respond to Carol’s rant about the little boy who “didn’t read all summer”. I too have one of those children who probably told his teacher at the beginning of this school year that he “didn’t have any books”. I can tell you from my own experience that my child absolutely refused to read all summer and yet as of this writing is improving on what he knew last spring. It’s still very slow going and very frustrating for him. Reading is the last thing he wants to do with me at 6pm at night (when I get home on 3 nights of the week) Don’t be too harsh on the parents. Most of us are doing the very best we can. And there are two sides to every story. PS My daughter is a prolific reader. Everyone is wired differently.

  11. carol Says:

    The comments to this post have been wonderfully thoughtful! Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to tell me about your own experience. Cathy, I also have two children – one who read everything and one who never wanted to read anything. Since I wrote this post, I’ve learned more about other things that went on during the summer at Stevie’s house. I doubt that reading was even at the bottom of the priority list. Sometimes just making a living and getting through rough times are the only things possible. Stevie is getting more help this year.

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