Our View: Read to children
Published 9:31 am Friday, March 1, 2019
There’s no denying the benefits of reading, and even more so being able to read well.
Today marks a national celebration of reading and the positive lifelong impacts it can have. More importantly, Read Across America Day, which is celebrated each year in honor of author Dr. Suess’ birthday, focuses on the importance of promoting literacy in childhood.
Read Across America is an annual reading motivation and awareness program that calls for every child in every community to celebrate reading. The celebration developed in 1998, and for more than 20 years has been the largest national celebration of reading.
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Encouraging children to read and finding ways to help them love reading extends much further than making sure they are literate.
Reading improves student achievement, but also leads to more positive outcomes in adulthood.
Despite the well-known importance of reading, more than 36 million adults in the U.S. cannot read, write or do basic math above a third-grade level, according to ProLiteracy.
ProLiteracy also reports:
— Children whose parents have low literacy levels have a 72 percent chance of being at the lowest reading levels themselves. These children are more likely to get poor grades, display behavioral problems, have high absentee rates, repeat school years or drop out.
— Forty-three percent of adults with the lowest literacy levels live in poverty
— One in six young adults — more than 1.2 million — drop out of high school every year.
— Low literacy costs the U.S. $225 billion or more each year in non-productivity in the workforce, crime and loss of tax revenue due to unemployment.
— Seventy-five percent of state prison inmates did not complete high school or can classify as low literate.
— Two million immigrants come to the U.S. each year, and 50 percent of them lack high school education and proficient English language skills.
And while millions of Americans are low literate or illiterate, even into adulthood, funding for adult education continue to decline, making it difficult to catch up. Some studies show that at the current levels of public funding, less than 10 percent of adults in need are receiving services.
The best way to improve outcomes for future generations and to ensure tomorrow’s leaders are literate is to start young. Celebrations like Read Across America Day are great ways to motivate children to read, but literacy must be an everyday value in American households.
Parents will need to take a proactive approach to literacy with their children, starting reading to them as babies and toddlers and encouraging them to try reading at a young age. Additionally, parents will need to encourage children to put down technology and devices and value the written word or find ways to merge the two.
One meaningful way to encourage literacy in the household will be acting as an example. Pick up an interesting book yourself and read it. More importantly, read with a child.