Reading Proficiency Should be National Priority

A non-profit group dedicated to helping build better futures for disadvantaged children in the U.S. says that if we don’t get our kids reading, we will soon be facing a national crisis.

In a report released this week, the Annie E. Casey Foundation finds that kids who are proficient readers by the time they leave third grade are ultimately more successful in school, work and life.  And those who aren’t?  They might well be on a “glide path” to becoming high school dropouts.  And at the end of that dropout path is potential poverty and, ultimately, a negative economic impact on the nation.

If recent statistics are any indication, nearly two-thirds of American fourth-graders are not reading proficiently.  And the majority of kids who are struggling are minorities and those living in poverty.   Ralph Smith, executive vice president  of the Foundation, says these numbers should be a wake up call to the government, educators and parents.

“The bottom line is that if we don’t get dramatically more children on track as proficient readers, the United States will lose a growing and essential proportion of its human capital to poverty.”

While remedial instruction for older students is better than nothing, Smith says more attention needs to be paid to getting kids reading the first time.  His group outlines four ways to make this happen:

  • Create a “cradle-to-career” system coordinating early childhood care and elementary education;
  • Improve schools that many low-income students attend;
  • Challenge parents to complete their own education and insist upon better results from their kids;
  • Find ways to lower school absenteeism and close “summer learning loss” gaps that afflict many low-income children.

Those are all good ideas but the fact is that some kids just hate to read.  I don’t know why.  While my third-grader spends more time with her nose in book than she does in front of the television, many of her friends find reading to be a chore.  Those kid’s parents aren’t any different than me – they read to their kids from a young age and enjoy reading themselves.  What is it that makes a book as interesting as a movie to some children and as torturous as dental work to others?

Image: Ken Wilcox/Flickr

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Article Posted 6 years Ago
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