When it comes to supplemental education programs for your child, there are a variety to choose from. Most, if not all, offer some kind of Math Education and English Education as two core courses. This is unsurprising, as most standardized testing, from the SAT'S and ACT's to Common Core tests, to Smarter Balanced exit exams, all use Math and English as the two main subjects students are quizzed on.
Most programs for English focus on reading comprehension, some calling themselves a "Reading Program" instead of an English program. Reading comprehension is defined as the ability to process information conveyed through text. Children with low comprehension are fluent readers, but lack the ability to gain information from the text they read, slowing down all aspects of their academic development.
While reading comprehension is a vital part of English education, it is only 1 of the 5 components of language arts. Focusing too heavily on comprehension while ignoring these other components is doing a disservice to students, who need language arts not only to support their academic career, but to express themselves beyond the classroom. So, what are the other components of language arts, and what do they contribute to a well-rounded student?
Grammar refers to the rules that make a language understandable. Parents can sometimes be off-put by grammar, and think it's too complicated for young children. But as the National Council of Teachers of English writes, "As human beings, we can put sentences together even as children—we can all do grammar..." A comprehensive English program centers grammar as soon as children are fluent readers, so that they can understand the language that they're reading, organize their thoughts clearly, speak with confidence and authority, and communicate well above grade level. Organization is often a key to success, and by incorporating lessons in grammar, a child's thoughts become organized, too, clearing the way for complex thoughts and ideas.
Thanks to spell check, auto-correct, and speak-to-type, what use are spelling drills anymore? Well, you might as well ask why teach basic math when we have calculators! Firstly, many schools require handwritten homework and tests, so no relying on our computers for help. Secondly, and maybe more importantly, having a strong grasp on spelling is a key to understanding language. Spelling helps us visualize our words when we're young, and helps us not to confuse one word for another. Learning new words and how to properly spell them is a time-tested exercise to challenge a growing mind. There's a reason why Scripp's National Spelling Bee has been a respected academic institution since 1945.
Not only does having a strong vocabulary make them excellent at crossword puzzles, but developing their vocabulary contributes directly to a child's reading comprehension. English is a difficult language to master, with one of the largest number of words of any language. By focusing on improving vocabulary, students advance their reading level above their current grade level, opening the door to more opportunities. For example, many gifted and talents programs use vocabulary as a measure to choose which children can attend.
Nothing makes an educator feel prouder than seeing students express themselves, and writing is one of the most accessible means of expression. Unfortunately, essay writing has been under scrutiny lately. While recent changes to many standardized tests have removed the essay portion of their exams, these changes may be temporary. Additionally, changes to standardized testing are a direct consequence of the rise of A.P. or Advanced Placement courses, where essay writing can be a large component for a variety of subjects like history and social sciences. Beyond the classroom, the ability to write fiction and non-fiction is an artistic and creative outlet that children badly need as they grow and develop their emotions.
When it comes to your child's education, don't settle for a "reading program." Find an English program which utilizes and celebrates all 5 components of language arts, to give your child the tools for success!