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Experts Brainstorm Ways to Improve Idaho Elementary Reading

December 7, 2011

BOISE, Idaho – More than 100 experts are gathering today to crack open the books and discuss a new Idaho KIDS COUNT report focusing on elementary reading proficiency.

About one-third of Idaho students read proficiently in fourth grade, according to the latest national statistics. Up until third grade, says LeAnn Simmons, executive director of Idaho Voices for Children, students are learning to read - and after that, they're reading to learn.

"So, if they are not proficient readers by the end of third grade, it has an adverse effect on everything else they're doing in school - and in life."

Ralph Smith, Annie E. Casey Foundation senior vice president, is leading the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. While investments are needed at the local, state and national levels, he says, additional resources have yet to be tapped.

"Recreation centers, churches and congregations, libraries and athletic programs. Communities can create literacy-rich programs."

School readiness, regular school attendance and quality summer learning programs are all part of the grade-level reading success package, Simmons says. At today's meeting, they'll brainstorm how to tackle those issues.

"It's not as much to identify what we need to do - the evidence is there of what we need to do - but we need to prioritize what are we going to do first."

When students don’t reach that third-grade reading benchmark, according to research from the Casey Foundation, they're less likely to graduate from high school and enroll in college. Simmons says that's a big concern for Idaho, where only about a third of young adults have a two-year degree or higher - and yet, it's projected that by 2018, 60 percent of jobs will require a college education.

The Idaho KIDS COUNT report, "Reading Matters: Read to Learn, Read to Earn," is online at The meeting will be held at Boise State University; more information is at

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - ID