Whether "Johnny Can Read" Often Influenced by Family Finances
BISMARCK, N.D. – There has been some progress over the past decade, but many young children still struggle with reading, across the nation and in North Dakota.
A new report finds that only about one-third of children in the state is proficient at reading when he or she reaches the fourth grade.
Karen Olson, program director of North Dakota KIDS COUNT, says the figures are even worse for low-income children and minorities.
"We're also seeing disparity among dual-language learners, those with limited English proficiency,” Olson says. “And these students are currently the driving force behind the country's demographic changes, and are among the least likely to hit this important milestone of reading proficiently when they enter fourth grade."
According to the study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 66 percent of North Dakota fourth-graders don’t read at grade-level, which is also the national average.
Olson says increasing the reading rates and school readiness are vital for future economic vitality, and the efforts must target the most important early years.
"The first eight years of life are critical to building a foundation for learning,” she explains. “And this is important because, in North Dakota and in the nation, there is an increasing demand for higher levels of education and job skills.
“And one way that we can ensure students are college and career-ready is to begin early."
Nationally, about half the students from higher-income families read proficiently by the fourth grade, compared to just one in five of children from low-income households.
If the trend continues, the report predicts by the end of the decade, the U.S. will not have enough skilled workers.