A child’s pursuit of happiness in life is predicated on two things:
who they know, and what they know.
Children born into poverty have no control over who they know. Their only way to succeed in life is through what they know, making reading the single most important skill a child needs to learn.
If you’re a child born into a middle-class family in this country, you have an average of 13 age-appropriate books in your home. But if you’re a child born into less fortunate circumstances, you have one book to share with 300 other children in your neighborhood.
Children’s book ownership, starting at a very young age, is imperative to gaining an appreciation for books, developing “reading readiness,” supporting literacy growth throughout the primary years, and ultimately becoming a skilled reader.
The research is clear.
Below are 18 facts about children’s literacy in America that inspire us every day to make a difference in the lives of thousands of at-risk children.
- Having books in the home is twice as important as the father’s education level. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility
- The single most significant factor influencing a child’s early educational success is an introduction to books and being read to at home prior to beginning school. National Commission on Reading
- The only behavior measure that correlates significantly with reading scores is the number of books in the home. The Literacy Crisis: False Claims, Real Solutions
- Children who struggle in vain with reading in the first grade soon decide that they neither like nor want to read. Juel
- Two-thirds of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of the 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare. BegintoRead.com
- Urging young people to read more when there is little available to read makes as much sense as urging starving people to eat, when no food is available. Krashen
- In middle-income neighborhoods the ratio of books per child is 13 to 1, in low-income neighborhoods, the ratio is 1 age-appropriate book for every 300 children. Neuman, Susan B. and David K. Dickinson, ed. Handbook of Early Literacy Research, Volume 2. New York, NY
- 80% of preschool and after-school programs serving low-income populations have no age-appropriate books for their children. Neuman, Susan B., et al. Access for All: Closing the Book Gap for Children in Early Education. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
- 61 percent of low-income families have no books at all in their homes for their children. Reading Literacy in the United States.
- Only 24% of Waukegan 6 year olds engage with books! 2009 Kindergarten Readiness Assessment, United Way of Lake County
- More than $2 billion is spent each year on students who repeat a grade because they have reading problems. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- Perhaps the most serious problem with current literacy campaigns is that they ignore, and even divert attention from, the real problem: Lack of access to books for children of poverty. Krashen
- Each dropout, over his or her lifetime, costs the nation approximately $260,000. Rouse, C.E. (2005). “Labor market consequences of an inadequate education.” Paper prepared the Social Costs of Inadequate Education symposium, Teachers College Columbia University
- When the State of Arizona projects how many prison beds it will need, it factors in the number of kids who read well in fourth grade. Arizona Republic (9-15-2004) Advertisement by Sheahomes
- The most successful way to improve the reading achievement of low-income children is to increase their access to print. Newman, Sanford, et all. “American’s Child Care Crisis: A Crime Prevention Tragedy”; Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.
- Out-of-school reading habits of students has shown that even 15 minutes a day of independent reading can expose students to more than a million words of text in a year. Anderson, Wilson, & Fielding.
- A single, brief exposure to good reading material can result in a clear increase in enthusiasm for reading. Ramos and Krashen; Cho and Krashen
- In 2009, Americans spent $3.2 billion on children’s books.