Why are third-grade reading results so important?








A recent report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation about the importance of third-grade reading highlights several important elements that influence students' early reading performance. This new report confirms the previous results presented by the 2010 report by the same organization titled Early Warning: Why reading by the end of third grade matters.

Most parents or caregivers are probably aware about the importance of reading to their children, but may not know why reading performance is so important for a child's academic performance and life.

Several researchers have found that children, especially those from low-income backgrounds, who are reading on grade by the end of third grade, have better chances to graduate from high school and to be successful at college or career options.  In addition, children from low-socioeconomic status who are successful in college or careers are less likely to fall into poverty.  You can read more about third-grade reading performance in Duval County in this Spring 2011 policy brief.

Despite this finding, early-grade proficiency among low-income and minority children remains low in the United States.  In 2011, 88 percent of black, 86 percent of Hispanic and 87 percent of Native American students who were low-income performed below proficiency levels in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading test.

This problem is significant because research has shown that the gap between strong and struggling readers increases with time. In other words, if a child is struggling with reading by the third grade it is very challenging to overcome this outcome in the years ahead.  Sociologist Donald Hernandez, for instance, has found that children who struggle with reading by the end of third grade are four times more likely to leave the school system without a diploma.

It is clear that minority children are part of groups who struggle the most with reading outcomes as the statistics included above indicate. However, poverty also plays an even more important role not only in reading outcomes but also in students' academic performance in general, as researchers have extensively documented. Poverty has a direct impact on the type of experiences that parents can offer to their children. It is common to find that wealthier children enter school with the required competencies whereas children from low-socioeconomic background experience more challenges in their readiness for school.

Another important factor affecting third grade reading proficiency is summer learning loss. It has been estimated that many low-income students fall behind in their reading performance during the summer. A way to counteract this effect is by enrolling children in high quality summer programs. Some studies have found those students who participate regularly in high-quality summer programs perform better in schools than those who do not participate and that the positive effect last for at least two years.

Now that summer has started, explore local summer reading programs that are available in Jacksonville Public Library to help our children to achieve a good reading proficiency level and to have a better future ahead.

--Maira Martelo 




of public schools in Duval County earned an "A," "B," or "C" in 2021-2022.