GREAT FALLS — Decades of research has confirmed the correlation between childhood poverty, lack of access to reading resources, lower reading proficiency, and the resulting struggle to complete high school and prepare for the world beyond.
The primary focus of the “If You Give a Child a Book…” campaign is serving children in kindergarten through third grade, an age group that is not served by other well-known initiatives such as Imagination Library and Reach Out and Read.
For the most under-resourced children, the transition to kindergarten is a fragile time when early literacy skills must be reinforced, engagement in more complex reading and comprehension is built and vocabulary is expanded.
Yet, during this vulnerable time in a child’s life, resources for ensuring that children have books in their home seems to fade. That is where the “If You Give a Child a Book…” campaign steps in.
The program has distributed more than 1,000,000 books resulting in more than 90 million reading minutes since its inception. This year KRTV is partnering with Sunnyside Elementary in Great Falls.
Remember: If you give a child a book, you give a child a chance.
Here are some statistics about childhood literacy shared by the Scripps Howard Foundation.
Childhood Literacy and Academic Success
- The literacy forecast for America’s children is sobering. According to the 2019 study by the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress), twenty-five million children in the U.S. cannot read proficiently.
- Developing that passion for reading is crucial, according to Jim Trelease, author of the best-seller, The Read-Aloud Handbook. "Students who read the most, read the best, achieve the most, and stay in school the longest. Conversely, those who don't read much, cannot get better at it."
- More than one in three children arrive at kindergarten without the skills necessary for lifetime learning (Read Aloud 15 Minutes).
- A child not reading at grade level by the end of first grade has an 88% chance of not reading at grade level by the end of fourth grade (Annie E. Casey Foundation).
- This early setback sets the stage for future challenges. Children who do not read on level by the end of third grade are four times less likely to graduate from high school (Annie E. Casey Foundation). Children in poverty fare worse, being 13 times less likely to graduate.
THE "DECLINE BY NINE"
A child turning nine is generally found in a third grade classroom, a critical year in a child’s academic journey. Landmark research by the Annie E. Casey Foundation has previously shown that reaching reading proﬁciency by third grade is a clear predictor of academic success. And yet the Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report ﬁnds it is just at that stage that children's frequency of reading books for fun begins to drop: only 35% of nine-year-olds report reading 5–7 days a week compared to 57% of eight-year-olds.
- The children who are truly at risk in this country are those who cannot read. Academic, emotional and social issues abound for children who are poor readers. Children who are behind their peers in reading struggle with low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy. Low achievement in reading is also the common denominator in school discipline, attendance and dropout problems, and juvenile crime (The Children’s Reading Foundation).
- Academically, children who are not reading on grade level by the end of third grade struggle in every class, year after year, because over 85 percent of the curriculum is taught by reading. Reading is the skill by which students get information from books, computers, worksheets and boards to learn math, science, literature, social studies and more (The Children’s Reading Foundation).
The Impact on Lifetime Achievement
- The negative trajectory of not being proficient in reading as a child follows many into adulthood. As they become parents, their children will follow a similar path. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, children of parents with low literacy skills have a 72% chance of being non-proficient readers themselves.
- Third graders who cannot read on grade level today are on track to be our nation’s lowest income, least skilled citizens. Reading is a prerequisite for most adult employment, continued personal achievement, and for a continued democracy. And sadly, some states use their elementary students’ reading failure rates to predict future prison sizes (The Children’s Reading Foundation).
The Correlated Impact of Poverty
Poverty exacerbates the literacy divide even further.
- A child from a low-income family enters first grade with an average of only 25 hours of one-to-one picture book reading, compared with 1,000 to 1,700 hours for a child from a typical middle-class home (Beginning to Read).
- In economically-disadvantaged areas, there is one age-appropriate book for every 300 children, as compared to an average of 13 books in the homes of their more affluent peers (Handbook of Early Literacy Research).
- While many of the statistics paint a bleak picture, there is hope on the horizon. If a child grows up in a home with 100 books, they have a 90% probability of completing 9th grade, compared to 30% in bookless homes. (Reading is Fundamental).
Impact of COVID-19
- The arrival of COVID-19 has further exposed the educational disparities for children in our most economically-challenged neighborhoods. The June, 2020 study by McKinsey & Company estimates that “while the average loss of learning due to the pandemic is nearly seven months, black students could fall behind by 10.3 months, Hispanic students by 9.2 months, and low-income students by more than a year.” The McKinsey report notes that this will likely exacerbate existing achievement gaps by 15-20%.
- The long-term impact is even more disheartening. According to McKinsey & Co., “School shutdowns not only cause disproportionate learning losses for these students, compounding existing gaps, but will also lead more students to drop out. The learning loss and higher dropout rates are not likely to be temporary shocks easily erased in the next academic year.” The outlook for economically-disadvantaged children was grim before COVID-19. In light of these new challenges, failure to build resource support for these students could be catastrophic.
Access to Diverse Reading Materials
- According to the 2019 Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report, “When kids choose, they read. Across demographics, 89% of kids agree their favorite books are the ones that they have picked out themselves.”
- The importance of diverse reading materials also cannot be overstated. When children have access to reading materials that represent different abilities, cultures, beliefs, races and ethnicities, they influence attitudes toward those differences. In the process, these books foster positive self-esteem, nurture respect, empathy and acceptance and bring people together.
Information on the “Summer Slide”
What is the summer slide? (Scholastic)
- A regression in academic proficiency due to summer break, and experts warn it is hindering kids’ progress when they head back to school.
- A study of children in 3rd to 5th grades by the NWEA showed that students lost, on average, about 20 percent of their school-year gains in reading. That loss tends to have a snowball effect as they experience subsequent skill loss each year.
Who is at risk? (Scholastic)
- Children in Kindergarten through 2nd grade are prone to the most learning loss because they’re at a crucial stage in their development.
- Children from low-income families are also disproportionately affected by the summer slide, in ways that can affect them for years into their education.
What can we do to help? (Scholastic)
- Let children choose what they want to read. Kids won’t gain as much from summer reading if they aren’t truly enjoying it. Children should have access to a wide variety of books over the summer they enjoy reading and are fully able to comprehend.