Putting children on a path to reading proficiency

Today is International Literacy Day, when we reflect on the importance of reading here in Kansas and throughout the world. Reading opens the door to further learning and ultimately provides a foundation for adult success and economic self-sufficiency. Unfortunately, too many Kansas children are not reading at grade level. In fact, 62 percent of Kansas fourth-graders did not meet reading proficiency standards in the state assessment in 2013.

While some are quick to point a finger at Kansas schools for the disappointing results, research shows that pre-literacy skills actually begin in a child’s first two years of life with oral language and literacy development. Children from low-income households are exposed to as many as 30 million fewer words by the time they turn 3 than their higher-income peers. Disparities in the development of oral language and other implications of poverty like reduced access to appropriate nutrition, health care and high-quality early care and education contribute to a lack of school readiness for low-income children that in turn leads to lower reading success and test scores by age 9.

The good news is that high-quality early care and education can put low-income children back on a path to reading proficiency and academic success. Teacher training is one way to improve early education in reading. When early childhood educators and K-3 teachers collaborate on reading strategies at the community level all students win. That is why the Partnership for Early Success supports policies to encourage joint professional development in reading for teachers working with children ages birth to eight years old. Read our brief, “From Readers to Leaders: Improving Literacy Outcomes in Kansas,” for more information.

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