Fast Facts on Literacy

Reading failure in the United States has reached epidemic proportions:

  • More than 40 percent of fourth grade students performed below basic levels on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in both 1994 and 1998. More than 10 percent of fourth grade children could not even participate in the NAEP due to severe reading difficulties.
  • Children who do not learn to read constitute approximately 17 percent of the population and comprise more than 50 percent of the special education population.
  • Currently 2.7 million students with learning disabilities (primarily reading disabilities) receive special education services, an increase of 42 percent over the last decade.

The societal consequences of reading failure are immense:

  • A student who finishes second grade without being able to read has only a 1 in 4 chance of reading at grade level by the end of elementary school.
  • The current approach to reading failure is remedial, not preventative, forcing students to evidence failure before receiving help.
  • Thirty-five percent of children with reading disabilities drop out of school, a rate twice that of their classmates.
  • Twenty-five percent of adults in this country lack the basis literacy skills required for a typical job.
  • Fifty percent of juvenile delinquents manifest some kind of learning disability, primarily in the area of reading.

Federally funded research and reports offer solutions:

  • Thirty years of research by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) has led to the development of accurate and reliable identification procedures which can be used to identify early on those children at the greatest risk for reading failure.
  • Two major reports have identified the necessary components of early reading instruction and substantiated the need for early identification and early intervention for students "at risk" for reading failure.
  • Rapid dissemination of this information will help to facilitate more effective teacher preparation and reading instruction in our nation's schools.

Early identification and intervention can reduce the need for costly services:

  • If identified early and given research-based intervention, 90 to 95 percent of children "at risk" for reading failure will become fluent readers.
  • Prevention of reading failure can reduce the need for special education services later in a student's educational life. Special education costs are, on average, double those of general education.
  • Competent readers developed through early detection and assistance will go on to succeed in both academics and life, reducing the need for social programs.

More work needs to be done:

  • There remains an urgent need for more federally funded studies to determine what interventions work best for which children in what setting and at what ages.
  • The identification of biological bases of reading disabilities, including investigations in genetics and neurobiology, can lead to additional opportunities for early prevention of reading failure.
  • Further research into co-occurring disorders, such as Attention Deficit Disorder, which occur with greater frequency in children with reading disabilities, can provide more comprehensive methods of treatment.

Suggested Tip!

Read Books New Ways

Does it feel like you’ve read the same story 100 times? Read it a new way: Ask the child questions about what they think will happen next and encourage them to tell you what they see in the illustrations.
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