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Report: More OH Fourth-Graders Should be Bookworms

May 18, 2010

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Fourth-graders in Ohio, and the rest of the nation, could stand to be bigger bookworms. That's the message in the latest KIDS COUNT report out today, from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, that finds two-thirds of students at that level are not proficient in reading. In Ohio, the number is almost as high, at 64 percent.

Barbara Turpin, the KIDS COUNT director for the Children's Defense Fund in Ohio, says the figures are important because up until fourth grade, children are mostly still learning to read, but after that point, reading serves another purpose.

"If they haven't developed the skills that they need through the third grade, then obviously they're not going to be able to progress to that next level of being able to read to learn."

She says that, when kids fall behind, it can lead to bigger problems later on, like dropping out of high school, unemployment, and a cycle of poverty that can be passed on to the next generation.

Turpin says the report makes specific suggestions to help improve the early literacy rate, starting before children ever set foot in a school.

"We have to focus on helping children be healthy during and before birth, and be developmentally ready. Also to encourage and support parents to be involved."

She says parents should be supported in efforts to prioritize school and literacy.

Turpin says one effort already underway in Ohio to help kids learn to read on schedule is the CDF Freedom Schools summer reading and enrichment programs.

"They are certainly targeting the ability for students to continue appreciating reading over the summer before they go back to school in the fall."

Turpin notes that there are big racial and economic disparities in reading proficiency, too, and those vulnerable populations should be targeted for support in getting their children on track to learn.

The report is at aecf.org

Eric Mack, Public News Service - OH