Life is unforgiving for children who can’t read.
More than 80 percent of students who fail to earn a high school diploma were struggling readers in third grade (1).
And once they drop out, the statistics get very bleak.
Almost 85 percent of teenagers in the juvenile justice system are functionally illiterate (2).
Seven out of 10 adult prisoners can’t read above a fourth grade level (3).
Dropouts make up 90 percent of Americans on welfare and 75 percent of food stamp recipients (4).
The evidence is overwhelming. Illiteracy damages lives.
And the window of opportunity to do something about it closes quickly.
By third grade, students must make the transition from learning to read to reading to learn. If they do not, they cannot do their coursework. And so each year as the grade level demands go up, they fall further behind, becoming outsiders inside their classrooms.
School becomes an increasing source of frustration. It loses its relevancy and they drop out.
This makes K-3 reading the most critical of all education reforms for millions of students. If we don’t effectively deal with it, then no other education reform matters.
We must demand that every child who sits in a classroom for four years enters fourth grade as a competent reader. If not, then what is the purpose of the classroom?
This goal can be met through strategies such as better teacher training and certification, pre-K early literacy, kindergarten literacy screening and retention policies that that provide intensive intervention for poor readers before they are promoted to fourth grade.
To learn more, please refer to the links below.
- Annie E. Casey Foundation, Double Jeopardy: How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation, 2011
- Kozol, Illiterate America
- National Institute for Literacy, 1998
- Begin to Read, Literacy Statistics