The decline of our nation’s literacy rate is a spectacle we’ve watched in horror and sadness for years. Studies have chronicled the ever-decreasing number of our children who are able to read at the acceptable level for their grade. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, only about one third of our nation’s fourth graders can read proficiently. Once students start to fall behind in reading, they tend to fall faster and farther behind their peers with every year.
Nationwide, only 20 percent of low-income students, and 34 percent of students overall, are reading proficiently by the fourth grade. These numbers have not changed significantly in the past 15 years.
A recent report on CharlotteAgenda.com shone the light on the data in our own community: in 2014, only forty percent of third-grade students in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools system were reading at grade level. The ability to read at grade level by the end of the third grade is well-documented to be the single-most important predictor of future success. And only 40% of our children meet the criterion.
Munro Richardson, Executive Director of Read Charlotte, has made a call to action with these sobering words: “We need to act with urgency, as this issue is very real, very now and will affect our all of our futures in some way, so even if your child doesn’t struggle to read this doesn’t mean you and your family are immune to the problems associated with poor literacy. We as a community must come together to address what needs to happen to help them reach their potential.”
Augustine Literacy Project-Charlotte directs its efforts to improving the literacy of our young readers, grades 1-3, from low-income families. Our committed, targeted, one-on-one instruction is making a difference in the lives of struggling readers who might not otherwise get the help they need.