Recently, I started volunteering at my daughter’s school on Thursday mornings. There’s a 2nd-grade class which has a lot of kids who struggle to read, so I help them learn “sight words”.
What are sight words? In English, there are certain basic words that are used very often in books and conversation. Children books have 50-75% sight words, so if you can read sight-words, you can read English more easily. If you are reading this blog, and are learning English, I highly, highly recommend you learn the sight-words. Really focus on reading sight-words, and pronouncing them correctly like a native speaker. There are only 200-300 sight words in English, but if you learn them well, it will help a lot, I believe.
The problem is that the pronunciation of sight words is often difficult. For example one is a sight word, but the pronunciation is not obvious. You just have to learn it. So, many kids struggle to learn sight words.
Some of the kids I help are immigrants from Asia, Africa or Mexico, so they’re learning English as a second language. Or, the children are born in America, but their parents are immigrants who cannot help them learn English. But also, some kids come from American families, but there are problems in those homes. Maybe the parents work 2 jobs and can’t help their children much, or other there are other problems.
My daughter is in the first-grade but can read most sight-words easily because I read with her every night, plus she can read/write Japanese at the same level. But these kids are older than my daughter and some can barely read the sight words. The difference is surprising.
These children aren’t stupid though; they just have no control of their environment, but have to struggle anyway. So, it’s important to really help nurture children so they can grow and learn and feel confident. It helps so much.
Also, it feels really good helping these children. It’s difficult because I have to change my work schedule, but the kids really seem to like it. One little African boy waves to me when he sees me at school, for example. One little Hispanic girl thinks my old-man jokes are funny. These moments makes it worth it because I know it’s helping them have a brighter future.
It’s important to understand that the Cycle of Poverty is a very real problem and the causes are complicated. But if the cycle is not broken, these kids will not have a bright future, and someday their own children will have similar struggles. In other words, the cycle repeats. Parents and society must invest in education and wholesome environments, so these kids can grow up mature, intelligent and capable of being responsible in society. If we don’t invest in children, society suffers.