State lags in reading proficiency


than three of every four children in Louisiana are not reading

proficiently by the time they reach the fourth grade, according

to a national study.

A Kids Count report by the Annie E.

Casey Foundation found that 77 percent of all Louisiana children don’t

meet the fourth-grade

reading benchmark. That’s 11 percent higher than the national

average, according to the report. Only Mississippi and New Mexico

have a higher rate of nonproficient fourth-grade readers.

The foundation’s research indicates

that reading proficiency by the end of the third grade is an integral

component in increasing

the number of children who succeed and do well in life.

“Children who read proficiently by the end of third grade are more likely to graduate from high school, are less likely to

fall into poverty and are more likely to find a job that can adequately support their families,” the foundation says.

No surprise there. Reading is the

most basic building block for all education. Students who struggle with

reading might as

well have a ball and chain locked around their ankles. Their

chance of success is limited, not only in the classroom but in

their employment options in the decades to come.

The report also noted that the gap between reading proficiency rates for children from low-income families and those from

higher-income families actually grew by 13 percent between 2003 and 2013 in Louisiana.

“As a state, Louisiana simply

cannot afford to ignore the growing gap in reading proficiency rates

between low-income and

higher-income children. It’s critical that Louisiana makes the

investments in our early education system, schools and communities

that are needed in order to make sure that every child is able to

become proficient in reading by fourth grade,” said Anthony

Recasner, CEO of Agenda for Children.

Let’s be blunt. A parent or

guardian who does not emphasize reading skills to their child is

practicing a form of neglect

and child abuse. And a public school or school system that does

not provide additional resources for those students who are

lagging behind in reading proficiency is adhering to a form of

educational malpractice.

The Casey Foundation recommends

“the use of results-driven solutions to transform low-performing schools

into high-quality

learning environments; that communities are supported to ensure

children come to school ready, attend school every day and

maintain and expand their learning during the summer months; and

develop a system of early care and education that coordinates

what children experience from birth through age eight.”

We might add that parents and guardians would also serve their children well by supplanting time spent in front of the TV

with reading.

More than the Common Core standards or any new educational theory, increasing Louisiana students’ reading proficiency should

be job one for parents and our educational community in Louisiana.