Third Grade Reading Marks Literacy Skill Development

Posted January 26, 2017 – AWE Learning Staff
Third grade is considered a critical turning point for early childhood learning. According to Susan Neuman, Professor in Educational Studies specializing in early literacy at the University of Michigan, “[Third grade] is the transition between learning to read and reading to learn. If these children don’t have the (reading) skills, they are really going to fall behind not only in reading but in all the other subject areas.” After young learners gain early literacy and language development skills, their learning ability increases for all STREAM subjects.

Research shows that children who read on grade level by the conclusion of third grade have a better chance to graduate from high school and to achieve success later in life. An Education Week article indicates that children who do not read proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma. Additionally, young learners from low-income backgrounds who leave school early are 13 times less likely to graduate on time.

There are several factors that contribute to whether an early learner is able to read proficiently by the end of third grade, according to The Annie E. Casey Foundation:

  • School readiness: health, language development, social-emotional skills and participation in high quality early learning programs
  • Chronic absence from school
  • Summer slide, or the tendency for students to lose some of the achievement gains made during the school year
  • Family-related stresses (i.e. hunger, housing insecurity, etc.)
  • Quality of teaching from home, school, and the community

The first eight years of an early learner’s experience (birth through third grade) lay the foundation of cognitive, social, and emotional skills on which the entirety of their future learning rests. In 2010, The Annie E. Casey Foundation helped launch The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a partnership between foundations, nonprofits, states, and communities to ensure that all students read on grade level by the conclusion of third grade. The program’s goal is for at least a dozen states to double the number of low-income early learners who read proficiently by the end of third grade by 2020.

Parents and guardians play a large role in setting their early learner up for success in school, leading them to advance academically and experience success in their career. Libraries are critical to this process as well, as an effective community learning hub. By offering a variety of technological resources, books, and programming, libraries can aid in school readiness and extend after-school learning. These resources will help early learners become proficient readers by the end of third grade and set them up for academic and future success.

third grade reading

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