Annie E. Casey’s Kids Count annual report was released last week. Among other things, the report looks at reading proficiency in fourth graders. This report found “an alarming 66 percent of fourth-graders in public school were reading below the proficient level in 2013”, with wide variation in public school students’ reading proficiency from state to state.
Americans are swamped with data about education, health, and well-being, so it is easy to ignore. Why should parents care that two-thirds of 4th-grade public school students in the USA don’t read proficiently? Does this really mean anything for their child’s future? It could be because proficient reading is a very big part of the ticket to adult prosperity.
Research released in 2012 by the Brookings Institution suggests a connection between prosperity and reading. Children whose “benchmarks for success”, including reading skills, are “off track” in elementary school have a much lower chance of earning at least middle-class income by the time they reach middle age. Slate.com put it this way: “Fourth grade is considered a crucial benchmark for reading because by that age kids are mostly done with formal reading instruction and have moved on to using their reading skills to master other subjects. But if two-thirds of American kids are lacking in such skills, they are unlikely ever to catch up.”
The Brookings Institution suggests there is a role for both public and private responsibilities in helping children reach middle-class prosperity. Parents are used to thinking of reading as the school’s job. But, given the situation described above, parents may want to exercise some “private responsibility” if their child continues to struggle with reading.
According to Planet Money, families in the USA spend about 5% of their income on entertainment and 1.5% on education. Flipping those priorities for just a few months to fund a semester of structured literacy intervention could make all the difference in a child’s chances of prosperity.
Sandie is a speech-language pathologist with more than 30 years of experience in the private practice sector. She is Visiting Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders at University of North Carolina Greensboro, and founder/owner of the Language & Learning Clinic, PLLC, a private practice in Elkin, NC, and Greensboro, NC, specializing in communication disorders, including disorders of reading and written language.