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Report: Two-Thirds of Oregon Fourth-Graders Struggle with Reading

PHOTO: A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation says only one in three Oregon children can read at grade level by the time they reach the fourth grade. Photo credit: USAG-Humphreys
PHOTO: A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation says only one in three Oregon children can read at grade level by the time they reach the fourth grade. Photo credit: USAG-Humphreys
January 29, 2014

PORTLAND, Ore. - Reading is the cornerstone of a good education and future success, but in Oregon and across the nation, more young children than not are struggling with it.

According to a new Annie E. Casey Foundation report, two out of three Oregon students can't read at grade level when they start fourth grade.

Chris Otis, executive director of the "SMART" program - Start Making A Reader Today - that sends volunteers into schools in 27 Oregon counties to help young readers, said the emphasis on reading at this age has its basis in research.

"If a child isn't reading at benchmark by third grade, it becomes just that much more difficult to take in what needs to happen," she said, "information they need to process, the reading they have to do - for everything that comes after that point."

Otis said improving Oregon's record isn't only about teaching more kids their letters and sounds, but about raising their enthusiasm for reading and learning, which translates into a variety of other skills.

"How excited somebody is, how motivated they are, how confident they feel, how persistent they'll be at something," she said. "We know that those 'soft skills' combined with specific, academic curriculum really make the difference for kids."

The report also noted racial and income gaps in reading skills. For example, in Oregon's lower-income families, it said 79 percent of children can't read at grade level by the time they reach fourth-grade - compared with 50 percent of kids from higher-income families.

The Casey Foundation report, "Early Reading Proficiency in the United States," is online at aecf.org. SMART program information is at getsmartoregon.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR