Think reading doesn’t really matter all that much? Think again. According to the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy, 32 million adults in the United States can’t read. That’s 14% of the population! Added to the 21 % of adults reading below fifth grade level and you’ve got over one-third of the population that is functionally illiterate. In addition to that, a whopping 19% (almost one-fifth) of high school graduates, leave secondary education without the ability to read, further perpetuating the cycle.
So what does this have to do with you and your child? Well, for starters, for your child, illiteracy equals higher chances of a bleak and impoverished future. And for you and the other working adults in this country, it means that more of your hard-earned tax dollars will be allocated to America’s prison system. Yes, it is a fact that there is a very real and direct link between crime and illiteracy. According to the Department of Justice, “The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence and crime is welded in reading failure.” Further evidence from BeginToRead.com shows that 85% of juveniles who interface with the court system are functionally illiterate and over 70% of inmates in America’s prison system cannot read above a fourth grade level. If that doesn’t hit close enough to home for you, this same evidence also shows that two-thirds of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of the fourth grade will end of up in jail or on welfare. Since fourth grade is the watershed year, it is predicted that a child not reading proficiently by this point, he or she has a 78% chance of not catching up!
So, what can you do to help ensure a better future for your child? It’s never too late to start correcting the problem. If your child hasn’t reached fourth grade yet and you believe that your child is not reading on grade level, the answer is obvious—have your child’s reading level tested. Typically in the primary grades K-5, students’ Lexile reading levels are assessed and tracked every year. Talk with your child’s teacher about areas of need and what you can do at home to help. If you can afford it, a supplemental reading program or tutor can help to get your child’s reading on grade level. If paying for additional help is not an option, it is free to read to your child and have your child read to you daily. Studies show that by allowing students to read non-academic books that are of interest to them, helps to drastically improve reading skills as well as help children develop a love for reading. If your child is beyond the primary years, and is struggling with reading on grade level, the same strategies will work, with the exception of Lexile tests, since these tests are not generally given beyond grade 5. Your job may be a bit more difficult now, not only because of a greater learning curve, but also because as students approach the adolescence years, they are less inclined to want to read, but you are not defeated! Your public library and your child’s school are great resources for finding free and low-cost solutions to help your child become a better reader.