Education and early learning continue to be important issues for the Institute. We believe investments in education and early literacy will ensure Oklahoma’s children thrive, and in turn, guarantee our state thrives. Far too often, children fall behind early in school and are never able to close the achievement gap, making academic success just out of reach.
Early on in school, the main focus of education is teaching children how to read. Students learn letter names and sounds and how to make words and sentences. But we know that reading is much more than just sounding out a string of words; reading is understanding and internalizing what those words mean in the context given. Until third grade students are focusing on learning to read. But by fourth grade students are reading to learn. At this point, students who struggle with reading and comprehension begin to fall behind in many subject areas and struggle to catch up with their peers.
The KIDS COUNT Data Snapshot released today, “Early Reading Proficiency in the United States,” found two-thirds (66%) of fourth-graders in the U.S. are reading at a level considered to be less than proficient. In Oklahoma the number is even higher (70%). That means the majority of children in our state cannot interpret a text in order to draw conclusions and make evaluations. This puts Oklahoma at 39th in the nation for 4th grade reading achievement levels. This statistic is not only detrimental to the individual children who are behind, but also to the state as a whole. Children who can’t read proficiently by the end of 3rd grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school. Higher rates of school dropout in Oklahoma lead to a higher rate of unemployment, and can hinder Oklahoma’s long-term economic growth.
That is why it is so important to start reading to kids early in life. Have them read to you. After they read, ask them questions about what they’ve read. Make reading a positive experience for children who struggle with it. Encouraging the development of reading and comprehension skills is vital to the future of our children and our state