Study finds West Virginia third graders lacking in reading - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Study finds West Virginia third graders struggle with reading

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Students at Stonewall Jackson Middle School learn punctuation. Students at Stonewall Jackson Middle School learn punctuation.
Students at Stonewall Jackson Middle School learn punctuation. Students at Stonewall Jackson Middle School learn punctuation.

A study released by West Virginia Kids Count revealed seven out of ten students in West Virginia are not reading proficiently at the end of third grade.

According to the data, only five of the state's 55 counties had more than 50 percent of their students reading on level at the end of the third grade. Clay county had the highest percentage of proficient readers at 63 percent. Kanawha County, the state's largest county, only had 48 percent of students reading proficiently. Monroe County had the lowest percentage with 29 percent of students reading on level by the end of the third grade.

To combat this problem, many schools have hired reading interventionists. Their job is to help students catch up and reach their respective reading grade levels.

"My job is to help some of those students that aren't quite where they need to be get where they need to be," said Linda Williams, a reading interventionist at Stonewall Jackson Middle School in Charleston, West Virginia. 

Williams only has eight students in her classroom. Her goal is to teach students the basics of reading and help them reach their reading levels.

13 News asked Williams how students mask their inability to read. She said it is all about deception.

"What they do is they learn to compensate for it so they figure out what they do know from the passage and they kind of make it up as they go," she said. "Usually within the first week you can pick up on it because they'll be the students that aren't volunteering to read or are sitting quietly not saying anything or even your behavior problems because they are compensating for the fact that they can't do it."

Williams said the best way to help children with their reading abilities is to get them started reading early. She said it does not matter if it is a newspaper, magazine or book, it is just important they become accustomed to words.

"The students who are struggling with reading usually haven't been exposed to literature. And it's important you have to start when they're little," she said. 

Those who struggle with reading typically end up in Williams' classroom. She uses different exercises and teaches the basics in order to help them learn.

For example, a lesson plan for her eighth graders was all about punctuation.

"Reading, they have to be able to understand what punctuation means so they can be fluent readers," she said. 

Her methods seem to be working. Teachers and parents said they have been seeing a significant improvement in reading skills from the first time the students walk into the school to the time they leave the classroom.

"It makes us feel great. We're excited, we're just thrilled that the kids are actually getting on grade level before they leave so they'll be prepared for high school," said Jessica Austin, the principal for Stonewall Jackson Middle School. 

According to the West Virginia Kids Count study, several risk factors for being a poor fourth grade reader include mother's education level, problems at birth, low family income, a lack of high-quality pre-school programs and poor nutrition.

To see where your county ranks in the study, click here.