The Importance of Early Literacy

We know that third grade is typically the year where students transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Multiple studies of learning have confirmed the importance of third grade reading proficiency as a predictor of school and career success. Third graders who aren’t proficient readers are four times more likely to dropout of school. According to the PARCC test administered in Colorado in 2015, more than 58 percent of all fourth graders were not reading at grade level, and unacceptably large achievement gaps exist when we break that statistic out by race and income status.

We have, however, seen exciting trends over the course of the past decade or so. Notably, between 2004 and 2014, Hispanic/Latino children made larger gains in reading proficiency than any other racial or ethnic group. There is momentum in Colorado to ensure more children have access to the high-quality early learning experiences that set them on the path to school success.

a child holding a book and laughing
Denver, CO- Classrooms at Clayton Early Learning in Denver on Tuesday, March 21, 2017. (Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon)

Recent Policy Success

The Children’s Campaign was a lead supporter of the Reading to Ensure Academic Development (READ) Act (House Bill 1238), passed by the legislature in 2012 to help struggling readers in grades K-3 by supporting teachers with research-proven assessment and intervention strategies. Early Literacy Grants provide funding to districts for literacy assessments, professional development, and instructional supports. Teachers assess all early-grade learners and create individualized plans for students with reading deficiencies. The Act also creates a decision-making team including a struggling student’s parent, teacher, and principal to determine whether a student with a significant reading deficiency is likely to be able to maintain academic progress if the student is promoted to the next grade level.

Going into the 2016-2017 school year, the READ Act is in its fourth full year of implementation. To learn more about the READ Act, visit CDE’s website.