Before my kids learned to sit up, I would hold them in my arms and read to them until they fell asleep. As they grew, we would sit on the bed in the evenings and as I read I would point to words and have them sound them out. Before long we would alternate reading paragraphs, and then pages. Eventually we had gone full circle and my children would read to me.

Reading is the cornerstone to learning. Children who do not learn to read at a young age feel embarrassed and quite often disrupt the classroom or are labeled “learning disabled.” For years several studies have shown a correlation between students who have difficulty reading and low self-esteem which doesn’t only affect a student’s academic career, but also every other aspect of life. If they cannot read proficiently when entering high school, they struggle and may eventually drop out. According to the Department of Justice, "The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure." We first learn to read, but then we must read to learn.

Educating kids takes more than a teacher in the front of a classroom. We used to ask schools to help educate our children, but now we ask schools to educate them, feed them, make sure they exercise, and the list goes on. As we ask schools to do more, we become more dependent upon them to do what used to be the responsibility of the family.

The governor recently gave the legislature his mid-biennium budget review, which included a “3rd grade reading guarantee.” There is much debate in the General Assembly on this part of the bill. The debate is not about the merits of the provision but how it should be implemented and when it should begin. We have heard from the schools, which basically support the concept but are concerned about another mandate put on their plate at a time of declining revenue.

This is an opportunity for our communities to step up. As a society we need to make sure every child can read proficiently when they pass from 3rd to 4th grade. Our high school students can mentor the younger grades, our senior citizens can read with students, our business community can support the effort with financial incentives, and our libraries can help facilitate the movement. We all need to play a part and you can help lead the charge.


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