Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

October 8, 2013

Reading proficiency: New study reason for concern

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — More than seven in 10 West Virginia students are not reading proficiently by the end of the third grade, according to a new study conducted by the National Assessment of Educational Process. That’s higher than the national average of 68 percent, and reason for concern for educators across southern West Virginia.

A child who is unable to read proficiently at an early age will surely suffer as he or she advances in life. In fact, research shows that three out of four of those students will remain poor readers throughout high school, and one in six will not graduate, according to Margie Hale, executive director of the West Virginia Kids Count coalition.

That’s simply unacceptable. All children should be able to read at a proficient level by the end of the third grade.

However, in Mercer County, the study found that 59.49 percent of students are not reading proficiently by the end of the third grade. And the statistics were even higher in McDowell and Monroe counties. The study found that 64.40 percent of all students in McDowell County are not reading proficiently at the end of the third grade, and Monroe County was ranked even higher at 71.35 percent.

“We are failing our youngest children by not preparing them to be good readers and successful learners,” Hale said last week. “We can and must do better. We should be focusing on early years, from birth through age 3, when the building blocks of literacy are being laid and where we get the highest possible return on our investment.”

The study found that the top risk factors for being a poor fourth-grade reader are having a mother with a lower education level, problems at birth, low family income, lack of high-quality pre-school programs and poor nutrition.

In West Virginia, one in five mothers lack a high school education, one in 10 babies is low birth weight, one in four kids lives in poverty, and only one in five pre-schoolers are enrolled in a pre-school program, according to Hale.

Few things in life are more important and more rewarding than being able to read.

We are alarmed by these statistics. We would expect all students in our region to be proficient in reading by the end of the third grade.

By encouraging students to read at an early age, we are helping to prepare the youngsters for a much brighter future. A love of reading will open many doors for youngsters as they progress through their school years, and later into adulthood. Children who read succeed in life.

Encouraging our children to read — every day — should be a priority for all parents, educators, concerned citizens and community leaders alike. The findings of this new study must be viewed as a call to action for local educators.

All efforts must be made to improve the reading proficiency levels of our students.