Monday, March 16, 2009

Food for Thought

Here is a little known fact that should make you sit up, take notice and think. Do you know how the state of Texas determines the number of prison cells that will be needed? By the number of children failing third grade! And this is not only Texas. I googled "how do they determine how many prison cells to build in Texas" and found this on the Educational Cyberplayground website.
In California "if the child isn't reading on 4th grade level when tested they will plan to budget building another jail cell. “Based on this year’s fourth-grade reading scores,”
The former governor of Indiana has stated that determining the number of new prisons to build is based, in part, on the number of second graders not reading at second-grade level. Low literacy is the socio-economic factor prison inmates have most in common.
In Arizona officials have found they can use the rate of illiteracy to help calculate future prison needs. Evidence shows that children who do not read by third grade often fail to catch up and are more likely to drop out of school, take drugs, or go to prison.

Here is something else you have probably never thought of. From first through third grades, children are learning to read. From fourth grade on, children are reading to learn. If children don't have the reading skills they need by the time they start fourth grade it is an uphill battle and if they don't have someone (a parent, a mentor, a teacher) who is in their corner, this is a battle many of them lose. 75% of the prison population cannot read better than a fourth grade level, meaning they are functionally illiterate.

So what can we do? Alot! Make sure a child knows how to read and is reading on grade level by the fourth grade. Support Adult Family Literacy programs that teach parents how to read and how to read to their children. Volunteer to be a reading tutor at your local grade school. Volunteer to teach adults to read so they in turn can read to their children and end the cycle of illiteracy.

People can re-offend, fall off the wagon, start abusing again, but once you learn to read, you are never a non-reader. Learning to read is a lifetime fix to a life long problem.

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