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Third Graders Lag In Reading Here

Audio

Aired 4/8/11

A new study shows third graders who can’t read at grade level are more likely to drop out or finish high school late. Just 29 percent of San Diego Unified fourth graders scored as proficient readers on the most recent national tests.

After the third grade, students shift from learning to read to reading to learn. That’s why a new study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation focused on how third-grade reading proficiency affects students’ outcomes later in life.

They found that one out of every six non-proficient third grade readers went on to drop out or finish high school late. That number rose to one in four when those kids also experienced poverty.

At such a young age, students’ reading levels have a lot to do with their home environment according to Amanda Bonds, early and community literacy programs manager for Words Alive, a local nonprofit.

“The easiest thing to do is to be an example of someone who reads in front of your kids,” she said. “Let them see that you’re reading stuff – the newspaper, articles online – because kids tend to mirror the enthusiasm for activities that the adults around them show.”

In 2009, the last year for which federal reading test scores are available, 29 percent of San Diego Unified fourth graders tested as proficient. Nationally, 32 percent of fourth grade students read proficiently. (National reading and math exams are only given to fourth- and eighth- and 12th-graders.)

The region may face unique challenges in teaching kids to read, said Bonds.

“We have a very diverse immigrant community, so there are many, many, many languages being spoken in the county and you can struggle with reading various languages at the same time,” she said.

The study also found that experiencing poverty increased a child’s likelihood of not finishing high school on time regardless of their third-grade reading ability. Eleven percent of children who read proficiently but lived in poverty for at least a year did not finish high school on time, compared to 2 percent of proficient readers who did not experience poverty.

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