One of the Smartest Investments in Ed Reform: Early Literacy
Great news for children in Arkansas! A new campaign is fighting to ensure that all students are reading proficiently in third grade by 2020. The Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, coordinated by the Winthrop Rockerfeller Foundation and supported by several OTL allies, is pushing for better access to early childhood education and summer programs, a reduction in chronic absenteeism and an increase in parent and community engagement.
The Arkansas campaign is part of the broader national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, let by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. As the Casey Foundation has shown in its research, ensuring early literacy proficiency is crucial towards closing the achievement gap. Students who aren't strong readers by the third grade start to fall behind as the curriculum transitions from "learning to read" to "reading to learn." Those students who are proficient are far more likely to graduate.
In its first report, the Arkansas campaign explains why early reading proficiency is particularly crucial for low-income students:
"Low-income children are less likely to be read to regularly or to have access to books, literacy-rich environments, high-quality early care, and pre-kindergarten programs. As a consequence, these children may hear as many as 30 million fewer words than their middle-income peers before reaching kindergarten. Research shows that such interactions are critical for language development, an important precursor to literacy. Only 29 percent of eligible three-year-olds and 59 percent of eligible four-year-olds have access to Arkansas’s Pre-K program."
Students of color are also less likely to have access to the resources and early opportunities they need to become strong readers.
So what's the next step? The AR Campaign is focused on four key policy proposals:
- Investment in prenatal and early childhood education programs
- Reducing chronic absenteeism to maximize the time students spend in the classroom
- Investing in high-quality summer education programs
- Increasing parent and community engagement
Learn more and join the campaign at www.ar-glr.net!
You can read the campaign's first report here.