APPENDIX I: WE HAVE A READING PROBLEM

Note: text in red and bold reflect my emphasis.

Table of Contents

The Importance of Reading
Statistics on Reading in Schools
Statistic on Adult Reading
The Importance of Early Reading Success

On the (Personal) Consequences of Illiteracy (reading specific)
On the (Economic) Consequences of Illiteracy (reading specific)

On the Importance of Reading:

From the: American Federation of Teachers: Reading: The Cornerstone of Learning (http://www.aft.org/edissues/rtolltor/firstch.htm)
(this is part of the Office of Special Education Programs of the
U.S. Department of Education "Reading to Learn/Learning to Read" initiative)

Reading is a prerequisite for all other learning.

No other skill taught in school and learned by school children is more important than reading. It is the gateway to all other knowledge.

Teaching students to read by the end of third grade is the single most important task assigned to elementary schools. During the first three years of schooling, students "learn to read." That is, they develop the capacity to interpret the written symbols for the oral language that they have been hearing since birth.

Most Americans know how central reading is to education. According to a 1994 poll conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates for the American Federation of Teachers and the Chrysler Corporation, nearly 70 percent of teachers believe that reading is the "most important" skill for children to learn.

From the: American Federation of Teachers Reading: The Cornerstone of Learning (brochure) (http://www.aft.org/edissues/rtolltor/Brochure.htm) (this is part of the Office of Special Education Programs of the U.S. Department of Education "Reading to Learn/Learning to Read" initiative)

For every child, reading is truly the gateway to knowledge. In fact, teaching children to read is probably the single most important task of our elementary schools.

Because the stakes are so high, it is impossible to overstate the importance of appropriate reading instruction, which combines phonics instruction with rich literature environments and opportunities to write. Those who learn to read with ease in the early grades have a foundation on which to build new knowledge. Those who do not are doomed to repeated cycles of frustration and failure.

From: What Reading Does For The Mind: By Anne E. Cunningham and Keith E. Stanovich – Published in the American Educator/American Federation of Teachers Spring/Summer 1998

…reading volume, although clearly a consequence of developed reading ability, is itself a significant contributor to the development of other aspects of verbal intelligence.

Statistics on Reading in Schools:

From the: National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) -  1998 Reading Report Card (http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pubs/main1998/1999500.shtml)

Across the three grades (4, 8, and 12) in 1998, the percentages of students performing at or above the Basic level of reading achievement were 62, 74, and 77 percent; the percentages who performed at or above the Proficient level were 31, 33, and 40 percent; and the percentages who performed at the highest achievement level, Advanced, were 7, 3, and 6 percent.  (see Glossary for Definition of 'Proficient')

From the: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development – 1997 Synthesis of Research on Reading (http://www.nrrf.org/synthesis_research.htm)

About 40% of the population have reading problems severe enough to hinder their enjoyment of reading. These problems are generally not developmental and do not diminish over time, but persist into adulthood without appropriate intervention. The difference between a child who has a learning disability in reading and a child who is simply a poor reader is only a difference in the severity of the problem.

Reading is not developmental or natural, it is learned. Reading disabilities reflect a persistent deficit, rather than developmental lag in linguistic (phonological) skills and basic reading skills. Children who fall behind at an early age (K and Grade 1) fall further and further behind over time. Adults with reading problems exhibit the same characteristics that are exhibited by children with reading problems.

From the: National Center for Learning Disabilities: Get Ready to Read: Considerations for Policymakers (http://209.190.217.242/grtr/policy.cfm)

Reading failure in the United States has reached epidemic proportions.

Over 40 percent of fourth grade students performed below basic levels on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in both 1994 and 1998. Over 10% of fourth grade children could not even participate in the NAEP due to severe reading difficulties.

Children who do not learn to read constitute approximately 17% of the population and comprise over 50% of the special education population.

Currently 2.8 million students with learning disabilities (primarily reading disabilities) receive special education services, an increase of 42% over the last decade.

From the: American Federation of Teachers: Reading: The Cornerstone of Learning (http://www.aft.org/edissues/rtolltor/firstch.htm)
(this is part of the Office of Special Education Programs of the
U.S. Department of Education "Reading to Learn/Learning to Read" initiative)

Reading is also a skill that a significant percentage of U.S. students--including many with college-educated parents--have difficulty learning. Reading problems are even more widespread among children of the poor, the uneducated, non-English speakers, minorities, and inner-city dwellers.

Statistics on Adult Reading:

From: Illiteracy: An Incurable Disease or Education Malpractice? (http://www.nrrf.org/essay_Illiteracy.html)
by Robert W. Sweet, Jr.
Co-Founder & Former President
The National Right to Read Foundation, 1996

According to the National Adult Literacy Survey, 42 million adult Americans can't read; 50 million can recognize so few printed words they are limited to a 4th or 5th grade reading level; one out of every four teenagers drops out of high school, and of those who graduate, one out of every four has the equivalent or less of an eighth grade education.

According to current estimates, the number of functionally illiterate adults is increasing by approximately two and one quarter million persons each year.

From the: Literacy Volunteers of America, Inc (http://www.literacyvolunteers.org/)

Between 21 and 23 percent of the adult population or approximately 44 million people, according to the National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS), scored in Level 1 (see description below). Another 25-28 percent of the adult population, or between 45 and 50 million people, scored in Level 2. Literacy experts believe that adults with skills at Levels 1 and 2 lack a sufficient foundation of basic skills to function successfully in our society.

Almost all adults in Level 1 can read a little but not well enough to fill out an application, read a food label, or read a simple story to a child. Adults in Level 2 usually can perform more complex tasks such as comparing, contrasting, or integrating pieces of information but usually not higher level reading and problem-solving skills.

The Importance of Early Reading Success:

From: What Reading Does For The Mind: By Anne E. Cunningham and Keith E. Stanovich – Published in the American Educator/American Federation of Teachers Spring/Summer 1998 (http://www.aft.org/publications/american_educator/spring_sum98/cunningham.pdf

The term “Matthew effects” is taken from the Biblical passage that describes a rich-get-richer and poor-get-poorer phenomenon. Applying this concept to reading, we see that very early in the reading process poor readers, who experience greater difficulty in breaking the spelling-to-sound code, begin to be exposed to much less text than their more skilled peers.

From the standpoint of a reciprocal model of reading development, this means that many cognitive differences observed between readers of differing skill may in fact be consequences of differential practice that itself resulted from early differences in the speed of initial reading acquisition. The increased reading experiences of children who master the spelling-to-sound code early thus might have important positive feedback effects that are denied the slowly progressing reader.

We addressed the question of whether the speed of initial reading acquisition in the first grade could predict later tendencies to engage in reading activities ever after difference in general cognitive abilities were controlled, as some models of Matthew effects in educational achievement would predict.

Thus, this study showed us that an early start in reading is important in predicting a lifetime of literacy experience-and that is true regardless of the level of reading comprehension ability that the individual eventually attains.

This is a stunning finding because it means that students who get off to a fast start in reading are more likely to read more over the years, and, furthermore, this very act of reading can help children compensate for modest levels of cognitive ability by building their vocabulary and general knowledge.

… it is difficult to overstate the importance of getting children off to an early successful start in reading. We must ensure that student’s decoding and word recognition abilities are progressing solidly.

On the (Personal) Consequences of Illiteracy (reading specific):

Research from NICHD's Program in Learning Disabilities Why Children Succeed or Fail at Reading (http://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/readbro.htm)

The first casualty is self esteem: they soon grow ashamed as they struggle with a skill their classmates master easily. In the later grades, when children switch from learning to read to reading to learn, reading-impaired children are kept from exploring science, history, literature, mathematics and the wealth of information that is presented in print.

Even what, to the rest of us, are everyday conveniences--a road map, the instructions for a microwave pizza--become daunting tasks for those with reading difficulties.

Surveys of adolescents and young adults with criminal records show that about half have reading difficulties. Similarly, about half of youths with a history of substance abuse have reading problems.

Even people with a mild reading impairment do not read for fun. For them, reading requires so much effort that they have little energy left for understanding what they have just read.

Contrary to what many people believe, NICHD research has shown that reading disability affects boys and girls at roughly the same rate. Reading disabled boys, however, are more likely to be referred for treatment, as they are more likely to get the teacher's attention by misbehaving. Reading disabled girls may escape the teacher's attention, as they may withdraw into quiet daydreaming.

From the: National Center for Learning Disabilities: Get Ready to Read: Considerations for Policymakers (http://209.190.217.242/grtr/policy.cfm)

35% of children with reading disabilities drop out of school, a rate twice that of their classmates.

50% of juvenile delinquents manifest some kind of learning disability, primarily in the area of reading.

From the: American Federation of Teachers: Reading: The Cornerstone of Learning (http://www.aft.org/edissues/rtolltor/firstch.htm)
(this is part of the Office of Special Education Programs of the
U.S. Department of Education "Reading to Learn/Learning to Read" initiative)

If children do not learn to read efficiently, the path is blocked to every subject they encounter in their school years.

Students who do not "learn to read" during the first three years of school experience find enormous difficulty when they are subsequently asked to "read to learn”.

In addition, a strong body of evidence shows that most students who fall behind in reading skills never catch up with their peers become fluent readers. They fall further and further behind in school, become frustrated, and drop out at much higher rates than their classmates. They find it difficult to obtain rewarding employment and are effectively prevented from drawing on the power of education to improve and enrich their lives. Researchers speak of this syndrome as the "Matthew Effect" -- the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

From the: American Federation of Teachers Reading: The Cornerstone of Learning (brochure) (http://www.aft.org/edissues/rtolltor/Brochure.htm) (this is part of the Office of Special Education Programs of the U.S. Department of Education "Reading to Learn/Learning to Read" initiative)

If children do not master these skills in their first three years of school, they are certain to encounter difficulties throughout their schooling. And when they leave school, they enter the working world lacking the skills they need to find a job, develop financial independence, and take their places as citizens, parents and workers.

On the (Economic) Consequences of Illiteracy (reading specific):

Illiteracy: An Incurable Disease or Education Malpractice? (http://www.nrrf.org/essay_Illiteracy.html)
by Robert W. Sweet, Jr.
Co-Founder & Former President
The National Right to Read Foundation, 1996

The federal government alone has more than 79 literacy-related programs administered by 14 federal agencies. The total amount of money being spent on illiteracy by the federal government can only be guessed at, because there has never been a complete assessment prepared. A conservative estimate would place the amount at more than ten billion dollars each year, and growing steadily.

More than half of Fortune 500 companies have become educators of last resort, with the cost of remedial employee training in the three R's reaching more than 300 million dollars a year. One estimate places the yearly cost in welfare programs and unemployment compensation due to illiteracy at six billion dollars. An additional 237 billion dollars a year in unrealized earnings is forfeited by persons who lack basic reading skills, according to Literacy Volunteers of America.

The International Reading Association estimates that more than one thousand research papers are prepared each year on the subject of literacy, and that is very likely a low figure.  

 

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