Reading is the foundational skill for school-based learning, with most students expected to learn how to read through third grade, then learn through reading starting in fourth grade. A recent Expect More Arizona blog notes a “strong connection between a student’s third grade reading ability and how well they perform on ninth-grade coursework, whether or not they graduate high school, and if they go on to attend college.” Despite the importance of early literacy expectations, many are not being met, resulting in negative impacts on education and economies throughout the country. To combat these issues, advocates in Arizona and Colorado are taking two different approaches.
In Arizona, Stand for Children Arizona’s Executive Director, Rebecca Gau, details that, despite a state program that is supposed to hold back kids who need more help, “the reading problems in Arizona are so big, the actual numbers are frightening.” Currently, 60 percent of students participating in the AzMerit exam are failing the English Language Arts portion. Since the state can’t retain the majority of third-graders, only the lowest performing students are held back, while the rest of the “crowd of kids move on, hopefully before it’s too late.” Gau calls for the state’s program to receive double the current allotment in the Governor’s budget.
In Colorado, Stand for Children Colorado’s Executive Director, Jeani Frickey Saito, points out, “only 39 percent of Colorado’s fourth graders read proficiently” – numbers that are strikingly similar to those found in Arizona. Stand for Children Colorado takes a different approach to this issue, as they emphasize the role of parents in “supporting their child’s literacy skills.” With the launch of Read Now Colorado, a new website that is part of a statewide effort to improve literacy rates in children, Stand provides resources and information to parents to support them in teaching their child to read at home. When parents take a more active role in their child’s literacy development and meet regularly with their child’s teacher, children can make the leap to becoming independent readers – helping ensure their success as they continue their education.