Sent to the AARP Bulletin, June 8, 2018
“You can help students read: (AARP Bulletin, June 2018; https://states.aarp.org/ca_you-can-help-students-read/) seems to accept the conclusion that if children are not “proficient” readers by the end of grade 3, they are more likely to do poorly in school. (“Students who do not reach reading proficiency by the end of third grade are four times less likely to graduate from high school…”).
There are good reasons for rejecting this pessimistic conclusion: First, there is nothing magic about grade 3. The study that the AARP Bulletin cites only examined the relationship between reading ability in grade 3 and eventual high school graduation. There is every reason to expect that the same relationship would hold for reading ability at every other grade.
But more important, there is no reason to expect that poor reading ability at any age inevitably leads to poor reading forever and school failure. A great deal of research confirms that students can improve in reading at any age, given the right conditions: Access to interesting reading material and a time and place to read them. Programs such as AARP Experience Corps can be a big help: When children are read and hear stories, they acquire the language they need to understand written texts and develop an interest in reading on their own.
University of Southern California