Yet, children throughout the country are struggling with a lack of early literacy– especially in the wake of COVID-19 learning losses. And the state of Massachusetts is no exception.
“Most third-graders in our partner cities– ranging from 63% to 88%– did not meet state expectations for proficiency in reading in 2022, in contrast to the statewide average of 56%,” Christine revealed.
“These latest scores represent a decline in nearly every single RAR-MA community from 2019 and 2021 (there were no MCAS in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic) proficiency levels, exposing the pandemic’s exacerbation of the literacy opportunity gap in the communities we serve.”
What’s even worse is that by the end of third grade, 74% of struggling readers will not ever catch up, according to The Children’s Reading Foundation. At the same time, students who can read proficiently by the completion of third grade are actually five times more successful in terms of college achievement and career readiness.
The lack of early literacy is even more prominent in under-resourced and minority communities, too, since access to books is a significant obstacle.
“The difference in availability of books for sale– at a 16:1 ratio– reveals a stark inequity between borderline and middle-income neighborhoods in comparison to low-income areas,” according to a 2019 Book Deserts study conducted by researchers at New York University.
This limited access, coupled with a lack of reading support in the home, prompts a cycle of disadvantage that will only grow unless addressed by targeted interventions.
Yet, if young children enter kindergarten having been read five books per day by a caregiver, they will hear an average of 1.4 million more words than kids who were not read to.
Behind Raising A Reader MA
RAR-MA is supported by decades of research and helps parents bridge the reading gap at home. And the organization’s dialogic reading model is flexible– empowering caregivers to encourage their child’s literacy growth no matter their starting competencies.
“Our program is designed to encourage families to enjoy reading together more frequently, coach caregivers on a specific set of skills to make storytimes more impactful, and support families in developing a literacy-rich environment for their child,” Christine said.