Varda Epstein: Is Your 4th Grader Reading Proficient?

by Varda Epstein

Up until the third grade, kids are learning to read, after that, educators say that kids are reading to learn. In practice, kids who fail to become proficient readers by the end of third grade are at a definite disadvantage. The subjects they need to learn are taught from books and reading is now crucial to the student’s academic success.

Yet according to the most recent statistics published at the National Center for Education Statistics, just 34% of fourth graders have acceptable levels of reading proficiency while almost that number are below average in their ability to read. This means that your child is more likely than not to have deficits in her reading abilities by the end of fourth grade.

If this is the case, you can advocate for your child, and try to get her the extra help she needs to succeed in school. But parents may not know their children are in trouble with reading. Because parents generally aren’t educators, they aren’t acquainted with the list of reading skills fourth graders should have attained by the end of the academic year.
Here is what you need to know:

What Happens Next

On entering the fifth grade, your child should have the ability to analyze texts well enough to guess what will happen next in the storyline. The fifth grader understands context and has good reading comprehension. She is acquainted with the different parts of texts such as titles, subheadings, and paragraphs; italics, bolding, and underlining; phrases, glossaries, and sidebars. Taken as a whole, the fifth grader can offer informed opinions about the texts she reads and can also make predictions about the content to come.
She is also capable of using charts and graphs as organizational tools that can assist her in organizing the data she finds in a text. In using these tools, the student increases her own understanding of the texts she reads. She is also capable of using such tools to bone up on material for an exam or for the purpose of writing up a report.

In fourth grade, students learn how to use the dictionary and thesaurus as vocabulary-building tools. By academic year’s end, your child understands word concepts such as synonyms, homonyms, and antonyms as well as homophones, word origins, prefixes and suffixes. All of this information should be at the ready as tools that can help your child glean the meaning of written texts.

Connecting The Dots

A fourth-grader is capable of weeding out the main message in a story and she can connect the various ideas contained within the text. She comprehends both the explicit and implicit ideas in a story and can offer inferences based on these. She can distinguish between major and minor details in a text and can tell a story over according to chronological order.

A child entering fifth grade is supposed to have a good mastery of all these reading skills and be ready to build upon them. That is why it remains critical for children to learn all these skills by the end of fourth grade. And speaking of critical, a fifth grader should also have critical reading skills.

By the end of fourth grade, a child should know the difference between fact and opinion, fiction and nonfiction. A child entering fifth grade should be able to compare two writing samples and describe the different writing “voices” contained within. The fifth grader understands how using a different writing style can change the reader’s impressions of the material presented.

Your child should be able to demonstrate these skills for you at home. If she seems to be struggling in any one reading skill, it may be time to schedule a meeting with her teacher. In putting your heads together, the two of you, parent and teacher, should be able to come up with measures to take to improve your child’s reading skills. Sometimes afterschool programs such as those sponsored by car donation program Kars4Kids can offer specialized attention by way of a reading mentor. The main thing is to ensure your child has a sturdy foundation on which she can build her academic future for the school years ahead.

Varda Epstein writes on education and parenting as the communications writer at Kars4Kids, a car donation charity whose proceeds fund children’s educational initiatives.