A r c h i v e d I n f o r m a t i o n
A Compact for Reading - February 1999
Where American Children Stand in Reading, Nationally and Internationally
- The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) shows little improvement in reading for students in grade 4 and grade 8 since 1992, and a slight downturn for students in grade 12. Improvements in reading have been relatively flat since the early 1970s. In 1996, 38 percent of America's fourth-graders could not perform at the basic level of reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. By contrast, NAEP scores across the grade levels have improved in mathematics and science, subjects that have been the focus of national and community attention (NAEP, 1998, U.S. Department of Education).
- International assessments provide more positive results. American children and youth were found to be better readers than students in many other industrial nations. The literacy score of American 9-year-olds ranked second among 18 participating nations, while American 14-year-olds ranked sixth (International Association for the Evaluation of Education Achievement, 1992).
- Proficient readers remain a minority. Twenty-five percent of fourth-graders, 28 percent of eighth-graders, and 34 percent of twelfth-graders attained at least the "proficient" level in reading. Across the three grades, 5 percent or less reached the "advanced" level of reading achievement (NAEP, 1996, U.S. Department of Education).
- Problems are particularly severe for disadvantaged students. Fifty percent of fourth-grade students whose parents graduated from college have "advanced" or "proficient" reading achievements, whereas only 10 percent of fourth-grade students whose parents did not finish high school read at these levels (NAEP, 1996, U.S. Department of Education).
- Many low income and minority students lose some literacy and academic abilities during the summer months. Some students lose as much as three to four months of academic progress while children in high-income areas gain at least a month of progress during the summer (Karweit, Ricciuti, and Thompson, 1994).
- Across the nation from 1992 to 1994, significant declines in average reading proficiency were observed for fourth-grade Hispanic students (NAEP, 1996, U.S. Department of Education).
- More than one child in six has problems learning to read during their first three years of school (NAEP,1996, U.S. Department of Education).
- Children who do not learn to read comprise over 50 percent of the special education population, and 35 percent of these learning disabled children drop out of school (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 1996).
Achieving Success in Reading
- Between 60 percent and 70 percent of parents and teachers agree that reading is the most important subject for students to learn (American Federation of Teachers, 1994). Reading is the gateway to all other knowledge. Students who do not learn efficient reading skills are blocked from every other subject in their schooling (The National Center to Improve the Tools of Educators, 1996)
- Reading, unlike speaking, is a learned behavior that must be taught and repeatedly reinforced (The National Center to Improve the Tools of Educators, 1996).
- It is essential that children find time to read aloud every day. This creates appreciation of the written word, helping students to become better readers (The National Center to Improve the Tools of Educators, 1996).
- Communities ranking well in achievement tests have several key variables such as an abundance of books in public libraries, easy access to books in the community at large (libraries, bookstores), policy of investing in school library, policy of having large classroom libraries, large number of textbooks per student, frequency of book borrowing per students, frequency of silent reading by students, and time spent by teachers reading aloud (Elley, 1992).
- Of fourth grade students scoring in the 90th percentile in reading ability and literacy practices, 60 percent read for fun daily or almost daily, 66 percent discussed studies at home daily or almost daily, and 63 percent read more than 10 pages each day for school or homework. Nine-year-olds who read more pages per day both in and out of the classroom perform significantly better in NAEP assessments (NAEP, 1996, U.S. Department of Education).
- Parental involvement in reading dramatically increases children's scores on reading comprehension testing ("Reading Literacy in the U.S.," National Center for Education Statistics, 1996).
- Learning to read reflectively helps learning disabled to become better readers. When reading with children, pause for discussion about what has been read. Discuss the language, content, and meaning of the text (The National Center to Improve the Tools of Educators, 1996).
- Above all other things, read, read, and re-read (The National Center to Improve the Tools of Educators, 1996).
[Appendix A] [Appendix C]