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The Nation’s Report Card Underscores the Importance of Collective Action

The Nation’s Report Card Underscores the Importance of Collective Action

A friend was in the library recently and witnessed the sweetest moment between a child and a library patron. It warmed my heart.

“Are you checking out your own books?” “Yes!”
“What a big boy you are! How old are you, two?” “Yes.”
“Oh my: You’re two and you have three books. That’s very exciting!”

Books, access, choice, agency – all these things and more were honored in this tiny exchange that took a simple moment of kindness and generated an excited response in the joy of reading. My hope is that this young boy will be surrounded by a culture of literacy as he grows, from reading instruction in the schools he attends to the support from adults in his life, and the encouragement for independent reading that future visits to the library will foster. Surrounded by this culture of literacy, this child will likely grow into a proficient reader and lifelong learner. This is my hope for every child because reading isfundamental. It is the fundamental building block to each child’s future, to the role they play in society, and to the future of science and medicine, politics, technology, the arts, and the planet. The list goes on.

Unfortunately, based on the latest results from the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP), it looks like the majority of American children are not on a path to realize all the opportunities that literacy provides. Reading performance for both fourth and eighth grade students has dropped since 2017. A stunning 65% of fourth graders and 66% of eighth graders are not reading proficiently.

Since the last report, 17 states showed a decrease in reading scores, one showed an increase, and 34 showed no significant change.

Building literacy is about more than instilling a passion for reading. Children need a foundation of skills and tools to afford them the access and opportunity literacy brings. This year’s NAEP scores demonstrate that there is a lot of work still to be done.

There is no quick fix to the children’s literacy crisis we face today but we have to strive for a day when every child can read, learn, and grow. Even if you’re not a teacher, a librarian, an author or illustrator… you can still have an impact. There is action that you can take every day by sharing your joy of reading – just like that library patron did by praising a young boy for selecting a book.

Remember a time you were delighted by a story? Perhaps you met a character that made you laugh, or found escape through a magical wardrobe, or learned about creatures from another age. That moment of discovery was surely one of many that was foundational in your own reading journey. You can contribute to creating a culture of literacy by sharing your joy in reading, by encouraging a child when you see them read, or by reading a story to an emerging reader.

Please join RIF as we continue to advocate for children and their families who need more and better access to books and resources. It starts with a book. Make a contribution today.