It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.–Frederick Douglass
4th Grade Reading Proficiency and High School Dropouts
Literacy is a strong component when it comes to predicting the success of students. The earlier we build that foundation, the better off the student will be in the long run. Studies show that the end of third grade and the beginning of fourth grade is a crucial time for a child’s literacy proficiency. Children who are not proficient at reading by this point are four times as likely to drop out of school than their better-read peers. That is only if students compared exist on the same income level. Add the challenges of being from a low-income home, and those same students are thirteen times more likely to drop out. Students that drop out are much less liable to be employed and far more liable to end up using government resources like low-income housing, food stamps, and possibly correctional facilities.
For children at the lowest income levels, the challenges in school can be the least of their concerns. Their attendance can be inconsistent because of family needs or transportation issues. They are often undernourished, causing them to be distracted when they need to focus on lessons. Students at the lowest income levels may be unable to afford the basics like pens, paper, or shoes. And families of poor students may be unable to offer educational support like helping with homework or attending school activities. This can be due to their work schedule or a lack of education themselves. Their lack of education perpetuates a cycle that keeps these families on the low end of the social and economic scale. For these families, a drop towards criminal activities is not too far off.
“For those who are at the lowest income levels, the challenges in school can be the least of their concerns.
Illiteracy and Crime
There are strong ties between incarceration and having a poor education. Students who do not earn their high school diploma or equivalent have a harder time finding a job. High school graduates are almost twice as likely to find a job than students who have dropped out. People who cannot read at an 8th-grade level have a more difficult time reading the news and employment websites (most written at a 9th-grade level) to find and apply for jobs. When growth options become limited, many dropouts will turn to crime. Studies estimate that up to two in three inmates read at the lowest levels or are functionally illiterate. Repeat crime and incarceration is much higher for those who have not improved their reading as opposed to those that have. Seventy percent of poor readers will end up back in jail, as opposed to sixteen percent that read well.
We can help break this cycle by focusing on literacy early.
Kids Read Now provides tools to help students embrace becoming better readers by giving them the books they want to read in the critical kindergarten through third-grade years. Parents are encouraged to participate by helping them read the books, answer the questions, and then report the book as read so their child can earn a prize. Through the efforts of the entire community, we can build readers at a young age that will become learners and leaders in the future.