Early Warning! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters

A KIDS COUNT Special Report on the Importance of Reading by 3rd Grade

By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

January 1, 2010

Summary

Millions of American children get to fourth grade without learning to read proficiently, and that puts them on the high school dropout track. The ability to read by third grade is critical to a child’s success in school, life-long earning potential and their ability to contribute to the nation’s economy and its security. Children can succeed at advancing to a 3rd grade reading level if policymakers focus on school readiness, school attendance, summer learning, family support and high-quality teaching.

In addition to the full report, an executive summary is available.

Table of Contents

Key 3rd Grade Literacy Takeaway

Every student who does not complete high school costs our society an estimated $260,000 in lost earnings, taxes and productivity

There are 7.9 million low-income children, birth through age 8 in the United States. If current trends hold true, 83%, or 6.6 million of these children, are at increased risk of dropping out of high school because they can't read proficiently by the end of third grade.

Findings & Reading Proficiency Statistics

Scores by Demographics

68% of all 4th grade public school students in the United States scored below proficient in grade-level reading in 2009.

Scores by State

State-by-state data for 13 KIDS COUNT indicators showcase the influences and challenges facing early reading proficiency.

Reading Proficiency Statements & Quotations