Reading Early

From “More than 100 cities, counties agree to push early literacy” in yesterday’s Post:

Washington DC, Baltimore, and six communities in Virginia are among the more than 150 cities and counties across the country that are pledging to concentrate on early literacy efforts to ensure that children can read by the end of third grade.

The Campaign for Grade Level Reading is a collaborative effort by dozens of funders to make sure that all children, especially those from low-income families who often enter kindergarten already behind, learn to read. Signing onto the campaign are big cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston and Atlanta, and the entire state of Arizona. [...]

The percentages of students who leave school without reading proficiently is scary: Children who don’t read well by the end of third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than proficient readers, and, research shows, children from poor families who don’t read proficiently early are 13 times more likely not to finish high school than good readers who have never lived in poverty.

The “pledges” are also declarations of intent to apply for the National Civic League’s 2012 All-America City Awards, which are given to ten communities who formulate the most promising plans to address school attendance and readiness, along with summer leaning loss — which particularly affects children from low-income families, who may not have books or computers at home.

Reading is, of course, at the core of elementary education and the key to most future learning. Moreover, children who cannot read grow more isolated and confused as the grades go by — which likely contributes to the above-cited drop-out rate. But that same statistic also invites a larger question: how do children complete third grade without becoming proficient readers, and even without teachers even realizing that they are not proficient? Student readiness and attendance are of course key factors, but even great attendance cannot ameliorate too-large classes or limited classroom resources.

How do you think DC-area school system should address early literacy and would that, in turn, involve addressing even larger concerns?

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