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Literacy crucial for all, elusive for many

Literacy crucial for all, elusive for many

Nearly half of O.C. 3rd graders are at risk of falling behind.

Literacy is crucial to an individual’s ability to achieve his or her full potential.  But grim statistics show that the ability to read proficiently can be defined as early as third grade, when functional literacy has been established – or not.

To illustrate how important literacy is, consider these statistics compiled by Newport Beach-based Literacy Project Foundation:

  • Illiteracy costs American taxpayers an estimated $20 billion each year.
  • There is a strong correlation between literacy and income-earning potential.  As the literacy rate doubles, per capita income doubles along with it.
  • Nearly 85% of youth in the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate.  In fact, illiteracy and crime are so tightly linked that some states use the reading performance of current elementary students as one predictor of the future need for prison beds.

Statistically, we know that a child who is not reading proficiently by the end of third grade will continue to fall behind, and according to 2012 Department of Education STAR test results, 45% of current Orange County third graders fall into this category.  That places almost half of our future population at significant risk both in school and in life.

“Third grade is critical because by that grade level, students must be equipped with basic English phonetic skills,” says Sue Tucker, founder and CEO of Literacy Project Foundation.  “These skills are essential in transitioning from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn’ in the upper grades.”

“You can have one student entering school with a vocabulary of 200 words and another with 2,000,” says Allison Granger, Language Arts Coordinator for Orange County Department of Education.  “You haven’t lost the battle, but they’re already so far behind that catching up presents a huge challenge for both students and teachers.”

Literacy Project Foundation is seeing tremendous progress on this front with its classroom and after-school programs that integrate The New Phonics Game, a proprietary reading program co-developed with the Regents of the University of California.  The 30-hour reading program is offered at no cost to public schools.  In measuring the success of LPF’s reading program, a recent Orange County Department of Education Executive Summary reported that reading skills increased by as much as half a grade level following the 30-hour program.

“Literacy is not a luxury – it is a necessity,” says Tucker.  “To break the cycle of poverty, the ability to read and write is the fundamental first step.  Our mission is to provide the skills for at-risk children to learn to read in order that they can take that first step confidently and successfully.”
To learn more about how you can help visit Literacy Project Foundation or Nonprofit Central.
Shelley Hoss is president of the Orange County Community Foundation. She can be reached at [email protected]

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