Just how important is the ability to read on grade level by the end of third grade?
The reality is that reading success at the end of third grade is a predictor for high school graduation.
Research shows that students not reading at grade-level by the end of third grade are four times more likely to drop out later on in middle or high school. When those same students who aren’t reading on grade level are also facing the struggles of poverty everyday, such as food insecurity or housing instability, it’s six times more likely not to finish high school.
These are staggering odds, especially when you consider how important the long term impact education has on a person’s entire life. The best way to prevent this from happening is by investing in early education and healthy parenting initiatives. When we help parents and caregivers understand how important their role in early literacy development is just by talking and responding to their babies and children, by connecting families with literacy supports – quality, accessible early learning centers, age-appropriate books and reading tools, dedicated tutors and volunteers – we empower our children and families to succeed.
Take Aaron. Aaron entered preschool with a language delay and underdeveloped social skills. He was shy and started to withdraw, which affected his learning. Fortunately, Aaron was able to enroll in a high quality pre-school and had access to a knowledgeable and nurturing teacher. She carefully observed him over a few days and assessed his development. Next, she met with his mom, and together, they made a plan to provide the extra help he needed. Aaron soon made friends and was meeting his developmental milestones, which are key to being ready for kindergarten and achieving future reading success.
Aaron’s story shows that the road to academic success starts early, and it’s why we are focused on School Readiness as a critical path to youth success. By investing in early learning and increasing the quality of and access to early learning opportunities, we are equipping them with strong foundations for long-term success.
Yet our work doesn’t end there. Strong reading habits at home are equally as important and it’s why we are invested in encouraging and supporting healthy parenting. Tiffany is one example. Her reading struggles began because she simply didn’t have access to age-appropriate books, at home or in her classroom. It’s hard to accept Tiffany’s story, but it’s reality for many of our local families who often must choose between paying rent or purchasing books. United Way’s Early Grade Literacy program is focused on bridging this gap and making sure children have access to books. Through this work, Tiffany also spent time reading with a caring volunteer who helped inspire a love for reading and confidence in her reading ability. Now, she reads every chance that she can—even on the playground.
By 2030, we will turn the curve on early grade reading in a positive direction and ensure that 90% of our children are meeting this critical milestone of reading proficiency by the end third grade. Through solid foundations in early literacy skills, robust family supports for learning and development and quality out-of-school programs that foster student achievement and prevent summer reading loss, we can help our children thrive, and help families break the cycle of poverty.
Join us in this fight end intergenerational poverty in our region. Learn more today!