There’s no question that literacy is an essential element to a child’s development and opens the door to a brighter future. Just how important literacy becomes has been a question many educators and researchers have sought to answer. Foundations such as The Literacy Project seek to improve reading skill levels among struggling readers and target the growing illiteracy among school-age children. Some of the most important statistics from the National Institute for Literacy, National Center for Adult Literacy, The Literacy Company, and U.S. Census Bureau underscore the critical need to address illiteracy in the United States:
- Currently, 45 million Americans are functionally illiterate and cannot read above a fifth-grade level
- 50% of adults cannot read a book written at an eighth-grade level
- 57% of students failed the California Standards Test in English
- 1/3 of fourth-graders reach the proficient reading level
- 25% of students in California school systems are able to perform basic reading skills
- 85% of juvenile offenders have problems reading
- 3 out of 5 people in American prisons can’t read
- 3 out of 4 people on welfare can’t read
If you’re a parent and want a deeper dive at the situation, read below for a collection of stats in keys areas in child literacy to help prepare you to make a difference in the lives of your children.
On Literacy Development and Early Application
- By age 2, a child’s brain is as active as an adult’s and by age 3 the brain is more than twice as active as an adult’s – and stays that way for the first 10 years of life.
- Cognitive processes develop rapidly in the first few years of life. In fact, by age 3, roughly 85% of the brain is developed. However, traditional education takes places in grades K-12, which begin at age five.
- According to the Department of Education, the more students read or are read to for fun on their own time and at home, the higher their reading scores, generally.
- Reading and being read aloud to has an impact that extends beyond just hearing stories.
- 65% of America’s fourth graders do not read at a proficient level.
- In a study of nearly 100,000 U.S. school children, access to printed materials was the key variable affecting reading acquisition.
- Children’s academic successes at ages 9 and 10 can be attributed to the amount of talk they hear from birth through age 3. Young children who are exposed to certain early language and literacy experiences also prove to be good readers later on in life.
- Books contain many words that children are unlikely to encounter frequently in spoken language. Books for kids actually contain 50% more words that children are unlikely to encounter frequently than regular conversation, TV or radio.
- The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) found that children who were read to frequently are also more likely to: count to 20, or higher than those who were not (60% vs. 44%), write their own names (54% vs. 40%), read or pretend to read (77% vs. 57%)
- Higher reading exposure was 95% positively correlated with a growing region supporting semantic language processing in the brain.
- The most important aspect of parent talk is its amount. Mothers who frequently speak to their infants have their children learn almost 300 more words by age 2 than did children whose mothers rarely spoke to them. Simultaneously, children learn grammatical syntax and the social nuances around communication in their community.
- Children exposed to fewer colors, less touch, little interaction with adults, fewer sights and sounds, and less language, actually have smaller brains.
- The number of books in the home correlates significantly with higher reading scores for children.
- Students who choose what they read and have an informal environment in which to read tend to be more motivated, read more and show greater language and literacy development.
- Children who are read to at least three times a week by a family member are almost twice as likely to score in the top 25% in reading compared to children who are read to less than 3 times a week.
On Social and Cultural Impacts of Illiteracy
- Nationally, only 35% of public school students were at or above Proficient in grade 4 reading.
- In middle-income neighborhoods the ratio of books per child is 13 to 1, in low-income neighborhoods, the ratio is 1 age-appropriate book for every 300 children.
- 61% of low-income families have no books at all in their homes for their children.
- 37% of children arrive at kindergarten without the skills necessary for lifetime learning.
- 50% of children from low-income communities start first grade up to two years behind their peers.
- Researchers estimate that before ever entering kindergarten, cognitive scores for children of low-income families are likely to average 60 percent lower than those in the highest socioeconomic groups (a pattern that remains true throughout high school).
- 1 in 4 children in America grow up without learning how to read.
- 80% of preschool and after-school programs serving low-income populations have no age-appropriate books for their children.
- Children from lower-income homes have limited access to books. Because of this, there are fewer home and preschool language and literacy opportunities for preschoolers from low-income families than children from economically advantaged backgrounds.
- Nationally, about half of children between birth and five years (47.8%) are read to every day by their parents or other family members.
- On average, children in economically depressed communities have 0-2 age-appropriate books in their homes.
- A child is 90% likely to remain a poor reader at the end of the fourth grade if the child is a poor reader at the end of first grade.
- Children in low-income families lack essential one-on-one reading time, whereas on average, children who grow up middle-class families have been exposed to 1,000 to 1,700 hours of one-on-one picture book reading. The average child growing up in a low-income family, in contrast, has only been exposed to 25 hours of one-on-one reading.
- One in six children who are not reading proficiently in the third grade does not graduate from high school on time, a rate four times greater than that for proficient readers. (rate is higher in children from low-income families and rural areas)
- 68% of America’s fourth graders read at a below proficient level, and 82% of those children are from low-income families.
Considering statistics of higher rates of school dropout, unemployment, and poverty, as well as the long-term implications of the third-grade reading achievement gap, The Literacy Project was established to make a significant and lasting impact to children through the power of reading. With a comprehensive literacy intervention program, The Literacy Project strives to improve reading skill levels among struggling readers at Title 1 schools throughout Southern California.