When Children Cannot Read


Millions of American children get to 4th grade without learning to read proficiently, and that puts them on the high school dropout track. The ability to read is critical to a child’s success in school, life-long earning potential and their ability to contribute to the nation’s economy and its security.

Every student who does not complete high school costs our society an estimated $260,000 in lost earnings, taxes and productivity.

There are 7 Million low-income children, birth through 12 age in the US. If current trends hold true, 3%, or 6.6 million of these children, are at increased risk of dropping out of high school because they can’t read proficiently by 4th grade.

68% of all 4th grade public school students in the US scored below proficient in grade-level reading in 2009.

42% of 4th graders score below basic in overall reading skills on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)

In Washington, D.C., the proportion of students beyond 3rd grade who cannot read well enough to participate in grade-level work is between 60 and 70%. The rate of adult illiteracy – reading below 4th grade level  is 37%. Nationally, 25% of all adults are functionally illiterate.

A study to be released this morning (2.23.18) at the American Educational Research Association  convention in New Orleans presents an even earlier warning sign: A student who can't read on grade level by 3rd grade is four times less likely to graduate by age 19 than a child who does read proficiently by that time. Add poverty to the mix, and a student is 13 times less likely to graduate on time than his or her proficient, wealthier peer. High school dropouts are 63 times more likely to be incarcerated than college grads.

Ford directed us to the spring 2012 newsletter of the Nevada Department of Corrections. The newsletter does not speak to her exact point, but it does mention children who do not read on grade level are more likely to dropout, use drugs or end up in prison.

So many non-readers wind up in jail that officials have found they can use the rate of illiteracy to help calculate future prison needs. Indiana’s former governor has stated that determining the number of new prisons to build is based, in part, on the number of second graders not reading at second-grade level. In California they plan how many jail cells they will build in the future by how many children are not reading on grade level by third grade.

· 85 percent of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally low literate.

· Juvenile incarceration reduces the probability of high school completion and increases the probability of incarceration  later in life.

· High school dropouts are 3.5 times more likely than high school graduates to be arrested in their lifetime.

· High school dropouts are 63% more likely to be incarcerated than their peers with four-year college degrees.

· Mississippi has the second highest incarceration rate in the nation.  The average adult inmate reads on a sixth-grade level when admitted.  Half of the state’s inmates never finished high school.

Do you want to lower the dropout rate in our schools?  Teach our children how to read.

Do you want to lower our national crime rate?  Teach our children how to read.

Do you want to decrease the incarceration rate in our jails and prisons?  Teach our children how to read.

Do you want to prepare future generations for better paying jobs?  Teach our children how to read.