Another one for the case for early literacy. Although 99% of children eventually learn to read in school, the main reason for the push for early literacy is not necessarily to give your child a headstart in school, but to ensure that he is functionally literate as highlighted by KL on the BrillKids blog:
The official literacy rate in the US is 99%, and this is similar to many developed countries, so the chances are very high that any child in the US or developed country will know how to read, technically speaking.
But how well can the child read?
You see, two children could both know how to read, but could be reading at vastly different levels. How easily is a child able to comprehend and absorb written information? When we start talking about levels (and concepts such as ‘functional literacy’), then the literacy rate starts to get much lower, even as low as 50% in the US depending on how you classify literacy.
The point is, learning how to read is only the first step. The more important next step is learning to read well.
If you want to ensure that school doesn’t botch up the job of teaching your child to read, it is a good idea to start early. And it isn’t just the case of “the early bird catches the worm” either. Funcitonal literacy translates to much more in terms of real-life advantages. Take a look at some of the literacy statistics quoted by TMT on the BrillKids Forum:
According to the literacy fast facts from the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL), literacy is defined as “using printed and written information to function in society, to achieve one’s goals, and to develop one’s knowledge and potential.”
“One measure of literacy is the percentage of adults who perform at four achievement levels: Below Basic, Basic, Intermediate, and Proficient. In each type of literacy, 13 percent of adults were at or above Proficient (indicating they possess the skills necessary to perform complex and challenging literacy activities) in 2003. Twenty-two percent of adults were Below Basic (indicating they possess no more than the most simple and concrete literacy skills) in quantitative literacy, compared with 14 percent in prose literacy and 12 percent in document literacy.”
Why learn to read early?
Two-thirds of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of the 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare. The fourth grade is the watershed year.
Literacy statistics worldwide
According to UNICEF, “Nearly a billion people will enter the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names and two thirds of them are women.”
Literacy statistics and crime
- 85 percent of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate.
- More than 60 percent of all prison inmates are functionally illiterate.
- Penal institution records show that inmates have a 16% chance of returning to prison if they receive literacy help, as opposed to 70% who receive no help. This equates to taxpayer costs of $25,000 per year per inmate and nearly double that amount for juvenile offenders.
- Illiteracy and crime are closely related. The Department of Justice states, “The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure.” Over 70% of inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level.
Some statistics related to illiteracy in the US:
- Literacy is learned. Illiteracy is passed along by parents who cannot read or write.
- One child in four grows up not knowing how to read.
- 43% of adults at Level 1 literacy skills live in poverty compared to only 4% of those at Level 5
- 3 out of 4 food stamp recipients perform in the lowest 2 literacy levels
- 90% of welfare recipients are high school dropouts
- 16 to 19 year old girls at the poverty level and below, with below average skills, are 6 times more likely to have out-of-wedlock children than their reading counterparts.
- Low literary costs $73 million per year in terms of direct health care costs. A recent study by Pfizer put the cost much higher.
Of course not every child ends up a statistic even if they don’t learn to read early, but why should we leave it to chance when teaching our children to read early is easy and effective?