Let's face it.  Time flies!  It seems like only yesterday my daughter was born, and soon she'll be finishing first grade.  I'm guessing second grade's arrival and departure will occur, too, with a blink of an eye, which has me thinking a lot these days about the transition to third grade. 

Neurologist Richard Masland points out that "early reading is a form of pattern recognition relying on the right hemisphere of the brain.  Real, deep reading that occurs a little later is a form of language recognition, drawing on the brain's own capacity for language, which in most right-handed individuals is located in the left hemisphere.  This dramatic shift occurs in third grade."  This is the shift from learning to read to reading to learn.

With that said, it is unfortunate that many children are failing to make the transition from purposeful decoding to fluent reading; mainly after the completion of third grade when text becomes more complex, has fewer familiar words, and requires more advanced vocabulary knowledge.  After all, accurate decoding is the bedrock for accurate comprehension.

Take a look at Mary Wennersten's article to get the scoop on why it is critical for students to read on grade level by third grade, and what some schools across the country are doing to identify struggling readers early.  There are also literacy plans in place to get more students on the right track and keep them there, and buzz about retention policies.