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Literacy Facts

Reading is the single most-important skill an individual can possess. We aren't born readers, it is a learned skill that requires practice every day to build and maintain proficiency. Here are some data points that underscore the impact that reading with children has on their success later in life. Sources are available upon request.

Nationwide, 38 percent of public school fourth-graders and 29 percent of eighth-graders still read below basic levels. For fourth-graders, state scores range from 32 percent reading below a basic level in Delaware to 67 percent reading below a basic level in the District of Columbia.

In spite of numerous reform efforts, higher standards, twelve years under Democrats and eighteen under Republicans, there has been no significant change in students' reading scores between 1971 and 2000.

Commenting on the 2004 NAEP results, learning experts say it's inherently more difficult to improve reading skills than to make gains in mathematics, because math skills can be taught in the classroom while reading comprehension often requires support at home.

There is a direct correlation between a mother’s education level and the likelihood that her child is read to every day. In 1999, 70 percent of children whose mothers were college graduates were read aloud to every day. In comparison, daily reading aloud occurred for 53 percent of children whose mothers had some postsecondary education, 44 percent whose mothers had completed high school but had no education beyond that, and 38 percent whose mothers had not completed high school.

Children, ages 2 to 3, who have been read to several times a day, did substantially better in kindergarten than youngsters whose parents read to them a few times a week or less often. The group of children who were read to on a daily basis were 1.6 times as likely to be rated by their teachers as being near the top of their kindergarten class in learning skills, and 2.3 times as likely to be near the top of their class in communication skills. These relationships hold true regardless of the income of the child’s household and the education of the child’s mother.

The average kindergarten student has seen more than 5,000 hours of television, having spent more time in front of the TV than it takes to earn a bachelor's degree.

Eighty percent of college faculty members report that entering freshman cannot read well enough to do college work.

Only 37 percent of high school students score high enough on reading achievement tests to handle adequately college level material—yet almost 70 percent attempt college-level work.

In the fall of 2000, 76 percent of postsecondary institutions offered at least one remedial reading, writing, or mathematics course.

For the Fall 2000 semester, 28 percent of entering freshman enrolled in remedial coursework: reading (11 percent), writing (14 percent), or mathematics (22 percent). A student who takes any remedial coursework is less likely to earn a bachelor’s degree than a student who takes none. Fifty-one percent of students who took any remedial reading enrolled in four or more remedial courses, compared with 31 percent of students who took any remedial mathematics.

According to the US Department of Education, a functionally illiterate adult earns 42 percent less than a high school graduate. It is estimated that $5 billion a year in taxes goes to support people receiving public assistance who are unemployable due to illiteracy.


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