Reading Checkup proves to be valuable tool for local families

By Whitney Stein

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to pivot, over and over, again and again, as we attempt to adjust to each new normal thrown our way. Tasha Anderson is no different, raising her 7-year-old son amid all the difficulties parenting through a pandemic entails.

“It’s been a lot,” she said.

But it’s also pushed her, she said, to double down on her son Trey’s education.

“It’s just made me become more resourceful; looking and trying to see what I can do as a mom to help his growth,” Anderson said.

At the start of Trey’s first-grade year, with remote schooling in full swing, she started looking for ways she could help him stay on track. She came across ReadingCheckup.org in her online research and, remembering recently seeing a billboard for the tool, decided to give it a try.

Anderson is in good company: More than 4,000 Reading Checkups have been completed since the tool was rolled out in Mecklenburg County in 2020. The free online tool gives families a quick, simple way to learn their PreK-3rd grade child’s reading level. Here’s how it works:

  • The child takes two quick quizzes that assess reading and vocabulary levels.
  • You automatically get results, an individual reading plan, and recommendations for fun at-home activities to help grow your child’s literacy skills.
  • The child retakes the quizzes about every six weeks, so you can check progress and get new recommended activities based upon your child’s growth.

“It was really easy,” Anderson said. “I was really impressed.”

And Trey’s take? “He said, ‘Mom, this is pretty good,’” Anderson said with a laugh.

Read Charlotte worked with Learning Ovations, a California-based company, to bring the Reading Checkup to Mecklenburg County. Learning Ovations developed the patented A2i system, which powers the Reading Checkup tool, after 13 years of rigorously tested research and development. The system links quiz results to evidence-based algorithms that provide customized recommendations for types and amounts of reading activities based upon each child’s age and grade level, and individual reading needs.

And, despite how technical this sounds (and is!), the end product is accessible and easy to use. It works across devices (smartphones, tablets, and laptops). It can take as little as 20 minutes to get an individual reading plan, providing families with valuable information about their child’s current reading level and progress.

After Trey’s first round of quizzes, Anderson was unsurprised to see that there was work to be done.

“He was where I thought he might be,” she said.” With school not being in [person], that was academically challenging for us.”

The results pointed her in the right direction, she said, pinpointing areas of focus for Trey and providing corresponding activities to try at home. It also led to a deeper, more informed conversation with Trey’s school.

“It brought to my attention things we need to work on,” Anderson said. “It prompted me to contact the literacy facilitator at the school to talk about what we can work on.”

In the 18 months or so since, they’ve continued taking the quizzes, trying the activities, and incorporating reading into their daily lives. When she’s cooking, Anderson said, she asks Trey to help read the recipe. She also uses tips she learned from a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library Active
Reading workshop
to keep Trey engaged. All that work is evident in Trey’s progress in the Checkup tool, and in Trey himself. Anderson said his interest in books (especially ones about sports!) has picked up, and she sees a new self-confidence in his reading skills.

“He’s getting to where he needs to be,” she said.

As we move through the second half of yet another school year impacted by COVID, the Reading Checkup can help fill an important role for families needing extra help outside of classroom instruction. For parents who haven’t tried the tool yet, Anderson had this advice: “I would strongly encourage them to go ahead and do it. It gives you an accurate picture of where your child is academically, and it can help you make sure they’re on the right track.”

Give it a try today at ReadingCheckup.org, and share with your family and friends who have a PreK-3rd grade child in their lives!

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