The Matthew Effect, first coined by Walberg and Tsai in 1983, is a concept that was named for an often quoted verse in the Bible: “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath” Matthew 25:29. When applied to early readers or early non-readers as the case may be, the rich (readers) get richer and the poor (readers) get poorer.
In other words, students who start out with strong literacy skills are much more likely to thrive academically, while those starting out with low literacy skills quickly get left behind. Without intervention, the “poor” students will fall behind their strong reading peers, and the gap will only continue to widen. Those that are not reading by the beginning of fourth grade are most likely going to struggle with reading for the rest of their lives.
The good news is that early intervention works! Children that are diagnosed as poor readers early on and given proper intervention will learn to read. The bad news is that early intervention is rare and most children are not assessed until third or fourth grade, when early intervention has a much lower success rate.
What this means is that you, as a parent or guardian, must take the lead and ensure that your child is not left behind. You can assess your child’s reading level well before third grade. Take a look at these assessment tools on A2Z Home’s Cool’s site: http://a2zhomeschooling.com/main_articles/reading_level_assessment.
If your child is reading below grade level, you must demand early intervention from your child’s school. Don’t forget that you are your child’s biggest advocate. Start advocating!
If you’re not happy with the resources provided by your child’s school, start researching alternatives. The best alternative may be for you to teach your child yourself. There are plenty of resources available to help you do this at home. But the easiest and most effective method is also the simplest…spend time reading books with your child.