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June 13, 2016

Six reasons to support early literacy

The ability to read is a powerful skill. Reading gives us the freedom to learn about pretty much anything, not to mention boost our imagination and creativity. At the most basic level, literacy allows us to navigate our world, from reading street signs or instructions to understanding legal or medical documents, even just using the Internet. Reading is more than just a necessary skill, it’s a human right.

Unfortunately, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, 64 percent of all fourth grade students in the United States cannot read proficiently at their grade level. For low-income students the problem is more dire, with one in three reading below basic proficiency, making them functionally illiterate. In a nation where the ability to read is a basic necessity for employment, investing in kids’ educations early is crucial in building a more stable society and a stronger economy. And the good news is, there are known solutions.

Many interventions have been proven to help turn around the trajectory of students struggling to read. And while these solutions have seen strong results, many of the programs and organizations working to provide early literacy services are competing for small pools of funding. That’s why support from individuals in our community is so vital to ensure that programs like Reading Partners can continue to help students nationwide develop the literacy skills they need to succeed in life.

Six compelling reasons to support early literacy:

1. The ability to read can make or break a child’s future.

DSC_8215Fourth grade is a pivotal time for students as they transition from learning to read to reading to learn. Those who are not reading at grade level by this time will fall farther and farther behind as subjects such as math and science become more central. Students who can’t read proficiently by fourth grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school. And according to the US Department of Education, 60 percent of our country’s prison inmates are illiterate, and 85 percent of all juvenile offenders struggle with reading. If we don’t provide reading interventions at an early age, the likelihood of poverty or incarceration increase dramatically.

2. It significantly impacts the economy.

A student who does not graduate high school ultimately costs our society $260,000 in lost earnings, taxes, and productivity. If we increase our national high school graduation rate, the return would be profound. Employees without a high school diploma earn an average of $23,000 per year, making it almost impossible to break the cycle of poverty.

3. Literacy is the foundation for all learning.

If you can’t read, you can’t learn. To advance in subjects like math and science, students must first be able to read. As students who struggle with reading move through school, they get more and more frustrated when they can’t understand simple concepts, causing them to lose confidence, lose interest, and fall further behind their peers.

4. Reading makes us more empathetic.

Research shows that the act of reading fiction teaches us “the importance of understanding those who are different from ourselves.” It’s no secret that empathy fosters a more peaceful society, and now there’s evidence suggesting that reading fiction can influence social functioning for the better.

5. The need is huge.

In the United States right now, more than 8.7 million low-income students in kindergarten through fifth grade are not proficient in reading. That’s the equivalent of the entire populations of Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, and Atlanta combined.

6. You can make a real difference.

If you’re reading this, somewhere along the line you got the support you needed to learn how to read proficiently. The number of children in need of support is staggering, but if enough of us pitch in, even a little bit, we can reach a lot of those children and significantly alter the course of their lives by intervening right now before they fall even further behind. By supporting early literacy, you can make sure more students get the same opportunity you were given when you learned to read.

Reading Partners is continually working to reach more students in need of one-on-one literacy tutoring, and our structured curriculum is proven to work. You can join in the fight by volunteering, donating, or becoming an advocate. Together, we can help students achieve their dreams by providing a strong foundation in reading.

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