|Students’ reading levels may influence a lot more than the ability to sit down and read a book.
The level at which a student reads can foretell several aspects of future success.
Recent studies have shown the reading skills developed by third grade may indicate students’ likelihood of graduating high school.
Even more shocking statistics have pointed to the relationship between early reading levels and future imprisonment: The Coalition for Juvenile Justice reports that about 82 percent of prison inmates are high school dropouts, and a very high proportion of them cannot read.
National literacy rates among fourth-grade students are sobering.
In a recent report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, one out of three students scored "below basic" on the National Assessment of Education Progress Reading Test.
Among these low performing students, 49 percent come from low-income families. Even more alarming is the fact that more than 67 percent of all U.S. fourth graders scored "below proficient," meaning they are not reading at grade level.
It’s a global, national and state-wide problem, one that manifests itself at school and at home.
Rutherford County School Board Chairman Mark Byrnes said literacy is “absolutely fundamental” for academic success, from elementary school to graduate study.
“Students who are not fully literate will have great difficulty fulfilling their complete potential,” Byrnes said.
Rutherford County Schools Director Don Odom agrees.
“The most noticeable attribute for student success in mastering new expectations under the National Common Core State Standards will be a student’s level of literacy proficiency,” Odom said.
The data about literacy in our state and country point to a complicated solution, rooted in our schools’ capacity to focus on literacy and, even more, encouraging a focus on reading at home.
Out-of-school reading habits of students has shown that even 15 minutes a day of independent reading can expose students to more than a million words of text in a year.
Murfreesboro City Schools Director Linda Gilbert said literacy impacts success in more areas than reading.
Literacy, she says, stands as perhaps the most effective vehicle for success in school and in life.
“To function successfully in the 21st century, people must possess the essential skill of reading,” Gilbert said. “And the development of that skill begins early. Success in high school is directly linked to third grade reading proficiency. Before third grade, children are learning to read. After third grade, they read to learn. If children cannot read well by the end of third grade, their ability to succeed in school is severely compromised.”
Lisa Mitchell, executive director for local literacy nonprofit Read To Succeed, said it takes dedication from the whole community to change the tide of our local and national literacy rates.
“Our schools work to improve literacy in Rutherford County every day,” Mitchell said. “But it also takes us – the community – to make lasting changes. If we really want to encourage our students’ success, we need to encourage lifelong learners. We need to read with our children, even after they’ve learned to read. We need to volunteer to help someone else learn to love reading, and we need to speak out about literacy issues.”