158,000 second-graders cannot read at grade level.

SANTIAGO – According to the Minister of Education, 158,000 second-graders are substandard readers. The minister delivered this figure together with a proposed solution. But these kids aren’t the only ones having a tough time with reading; many older kids and adults do, too.

Today, as reported in El Dinamo, Minister of Education Marcela Cubillos announced, “In our country there are 158,000 children who go to second grade without an adequate level of reading, making it difficult to achieve other learning.”

Cubillos went on to say, “This is a reality that we are facing with a plan that gives children and teachers the tools they need to develop reading in a commitment more for the quality of education.”

Paula Muñoz, a kindergarten specialist at Víctor Jara public school in La Pintana, who works in the reading and learning field, spoke with Chile Today and acknowledged the reading comprehension problem. But she also emphasized that it is not limited to 2nd-graders; it also affects bigger kids, too, like 4th- and 5th- graders, and the problem is twofold: they don’t know how to read and/or they don’t understand what they read.

According to a recent study, 4 out of 10 students in 4th grade had significant challenges in reading comprehension, remaining at the low (28%) and below the low (13%) levels.

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The minister also stressed the importance of teachers, given their role in the learning process and as motivators. In that sense, she invited the entire educational community to reinforce the commitment to the development of reading.

Marianela Morilla, kindergarten teacher at Víctor Jara, agrees with the minister, but stresses that although “progress has been made in this area, teachers cannot do it all.” Among other things, they obviously can’t be a constant motivating presence when the children are away from class.

Morilla also stressed the work done by the Ministry of Education, saying “progress has been made and the concern is noted, [and] plans and things have been made to improve [the situation], such as the ‘Leo Primero’ (Read First) plan.”

Leo Primero

The 158,000 figure above, and others were delivered by the minister as part of a presentation of the “Leo Primero” plan. The plan’s objective is that children “learn to read comprehensively in the first basic [grammar school].” Materials that implement the plan have already been delivered to more than 5,700 schools throughout Chile.

The materials include six booklets per student, three for each semester, an adhesive alphabet for each student, a didactic guide for the teacher, and more than 40 books for the classroom library.

“Leo Primero” is itself part of a larger educational plan, “Chile Aprende Más” (Chile Learn More). According to the government’s website, this plan “is focused on reducing bureaucracy, improving reading, [and] promoting English learning, the use of new technologies and the development of more and better tools to teach in Classroom.”

Not only a student problem

Reading problems are not limited to children. According to the Global GfK Study, frequency in reading books, “Chile is well below the world average: Globally, 59% say they read at least once a week versus 40% of the Chilean population.”

The report also indicated that only 22% of Chileans say they “read books all or most of the days” and 4% say they “never do it.”

On the other hand, the results of the last PISA (International Program for Student Assessment) conducted by the OECD in 2015, showed that Chileans have better reading comprehension than the rest of Latin America.

The test was taken by 15-year-old students, who obtained an average of 457, versus the Latin American average of 422. But even with this result Chile remains below the general average of the OECD countries, 500 points.

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