A child's reading proficiency in 4th grade sets a trajectory for her life. Reading ability directly impacts self- esteem and lifetime earning potential, which impact her health, socioeconomic status, and everything that flows from those factors. Yet 2 out of 3 American 4th graders are not proficient readers; and 1 out of 3 are so improficient they score "below basic" on the Nation's Report Card! That means 1 out of 3 children in the 4th grade do not even make it onto the score card! Think about your family members and your friends' children. Now try to decide which child in every 3 you know deserves the opportunities in life that being a successful reader offers.
By continuing to accept education as it is today we are passively losing our children's futures. There is often no opportunity to successfully remediate poor reading later- the brain is geared for learning language and learning how to read when we are young. In a use-it-or-lose it situation, children experience synaptic pruning in the brain as they age. This means that remediating a struggling reader takes exponentially more instructional time the older the child gets. While those hours are spent teaching that student to read, he is missing content material in other subjects. The best time to fix reading problems is during the early grades—when they first appear!
Waiting until 3rd grade to see if students are developing into proficient readers is unacceptable. Young brains are wired to learn language during the early grades, but as they get older it becomes increasingly difficult to remediate reading problems.
During 3rd grade, children transition from learning-to-read to reading-to-learn information. Children who are not able to read the words on the page in 3rd grade are left behind as their peers are focusing on mastering reading comprehension skills.
A gap in reading proficiency at the beginning of 3rd grade becomes a reading canyon by the end of 3rd grade. Children reading below grade level going into 4th grade suffer significant educational deficits across the curricula for the rest of their academic careers; and, as a result, they are ill prepared to enter the work force.
What is required is a system that reflects a sense of urgency to support all students from kindergarten onward so that every child has the best opportunity to become a proficient reader.
In a highly literate society, life for adults who are not proficient readers is dismal. The statistics are staggering and the personal stories heart rending. Our children need an effective system that has demonstrated the capability to develop their individual reading competency—their futures depend upon it. In order to improve literacy for all students a strong commitment and a sense of urgency is needed from educators, administrators, policy makers, and parents to foster and sustain this reading revolution.
Reading research has revealed vital information about the processes involved in reading and best practices to get positive results for every student. Nationally and internationally we are poised on the cusp of a reading renaissance. Education is experiencing a scientific revolution that parallels the evolution of medicine from myth and opinion to today’s modern, science-based practices. By converting theory to practice, we now have the demonstrated capability to create a fluid high performing reading system to create a transformative experience for newly emerging readers.
Our high school students’ poor reading and writing skills are alarming. Many students in elementary school are not becoming successful readers. Teachers are often frustrated by lack of understanding on what the reading process really involves. Why do some students exhibit skills deficits that other students instinctively develop? What can we do to help high school students who are not proficient readers?
With nearly four decades of experience in both primary and secondary education, our team has seen that correctly chosen, focused reading processes can dramatically accelerate learning to read, even in reading challenged students. We have experienced and recognize the challenges that underfunded urban and rural school districts face when educating students who have limited resources.