By NIKKI SAINT BAUTISTA
Sixty-seven percent of all U.S. fourth graders cannot read at grade level, according to a new study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. In other words, 67 percent of all U.S. fourth graders cannot read books such as Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.
If fourth graders cannot read by the time they are in fourth grade, they will be more likely to drop out of high school. If students don’t complete high school, they most likely will not go to college or they might drop out. Every student who does not graduate from high school “costs our society an estimated $260,000 in lost earnings, taxes and productivity,” according to the research. The study is based on a National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading test given in 2009.
The NAEP says, “When reading text appropriate at fourth grade, [students] should be able to extend the ideas in the text by making inferences; drawing conclusions, and making connections to their own experiences. The connection between the text and what the student infers should be clear.”
Reading levels improve very little by the time students enter eighth grade or high school. In fact, “only 32 percent of eighth graders and 38 percent of twelfth graders are at or above grade level,” According to the website Students First.
Among those with the worst reading levels are students from low-income, Black, Hispanic and Native American backgrounds, compared with moderate and high-income students, or low-income white or Asian/Pacific Islander students.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE STUDY
Factors that affect reading levels:
1. Children who do not read or engage in learning activities during the summer.
2. Children are distracted by hunger, food insecurity and housing insecurity.
3. Children who have too many problems at home become too stressed.
1. Universal access to child care, and after-school and summer programs.
2. Universal access to high-quality, affordable, comprehensive health care.
3. Help low-income parents and families support their children, so that they will continue going to school and stay active during the summer.