The Dear Teacher February

Expected Reading Accomplishments from Pre-primer to 11th Grade

Question: How do I know if my young children in kindergarten and third grade are reading on grade level? Also, can you give me a list of books for these grades? – Want to Know


Answer: Report cards and teacher conferences should already have told you about your children's reading level in both grades. If not, ask their teachers for this information. Be aware that reading on grade level can mean different accomplishments at different schools. Plus, you should expect bright children to be reading one or more years above their grade level.

On our website (, you will find the San Diego Quick Assessment that will let you quickly gauge your children’s reading ability. It is the first item under “Checklists.” All you have to do is to have your children read lists of words. This is a first-step screening procedure. However, research has confirmed that it is a fairly accurate estimate of children’s ability to read. Not only will it tell you the grade level where your child is actually reading. It will also tell you the grade levels where they can read independently and those where they will struggle.

The best way to get a list of suggested books for your children to read is to request one from your child's teacher or the school librarian. It also can be helpful to ask friends about books their children are enjoying.

Is My Middle Schooler Being Socially Accepted?

Question: How can I tell if my middle-schooler is being accepted socially by his peers? He spends a lot of time in solitary pursuits. – Loner

Answer: Simple observation should largely answer your question. Are friends calling him on the phone? Is he calling others on the phone? Is he asked on outings with other children? Does he interact with neighborhood children his age? Does he participate in sports formally or informally? Does he belong to scouts or any clubs? Does he ever do school projects or homework with others in his class? What does he say about having friends? What does his teacher say about his socialization at school?

Caution: Are excessive online activities limiting personal contact with his peers?

Child Is Labeled a Trouble Maker

Question: Since third grade my child has been labeled as a trouble maker. He is currently in fifth grade and everything he does no matter what he gets a detention. We have a meeting scheduled with his teacher because I have heard that this information is being sent over to his middle school – labeling him even before he arrives? – Concerned

Answer: You have been hearing about your son’s behavior for several years now. Why did he start acting this way in third grade? What happened in third grade to make the year different from first and second grade before he had a label? And the big question: Why hasn’t something been done to change his behavior by you or the school?

As far as his records go, you will not be able to take out any information that teachers have put into them. However, you can look at the records and put in information expressing your take on his behavior for the middle school teachers to see.

Realistically it is past time for your son to change his image. When you meet with his teacher, ask what can be done right now to help your son eliminate the troublemaker label. Suggest that a behavior modification plan be developed immediately so some improvement in his behavior can begin to take place at once.

Helping a Child Who Is a “Disorganized Mess”

Question: My daughter is in the second grade, and the teacher says that she is a disorganized mess in class. The child often can't find missing books and is not willing to look for them. – Needs Organization

Answer: Organization is a skill that young children usually learn at home. Is she organized at home? We are guessing the answer is "no." Getting your child to be more organized needs to be a two-pronged attack by you and the teacher.

Let's first focus on the classroom and the missing book situation. If the child does not have a desk to keep her things in, books not being used always must be placed in a basket or cubby. At the start of the day, all books are to be taken from her backpack and stored appropriately. Your daughter needs to have a chart that she can check when this is done. She must also check the chart that a book has been put away when another is opened. The teacher should check the chart frequently and insist on this organization before other activities can be started. The chart can be taped to the top of the child’s desk or table where she sits.

At home, choose just one aspect of your daughter's life that ties in with school – possibly getting her backpack organized before 8 o'clock each evening. You can use an alarm clock to remind her about this. You also will need to supervise this activity for some time.

Parents should send questions and comments to or ask them on the columnists’ website at

©Compass Syndicate Corporation, 2012

Distributed by King Features Syndicate