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The Importance of Children's Literacy

"Literacy is an individual's ability to read, write, and speak in English, and compute and solve problems at levels of proficiency necessary to function on the job and in society, to achieve one's goals, and to develop one's knowledge and potential."
--National Literacy Act, 1991

The Problem

The Solution

The Importance of Children's Literacy to Washington State

Thank you for my book. It is the best book I have at my house, it’s my best and goodest. I’ve never had one before.
-- Irina

Children who lack early exposure to reading struggle academically, tend to suffer from low self-esteem, and are at much higher risk of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and delinquency.(1) The children most at risk come from low-income families where parents do not or cannot read to their children and for whom books are an unaffordable luxury.

Studies have shown that being read to as a child and having books in the home are the two most important indicators of future academic success.(2) Families who live at or below the federal poverty level cannot afford to buy books and seldom have books in the home. According to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, by the 4th grade only 68% of children from low-income families in Washington State can read at a basic level, compared to 88% from more affluent households.(3)

For families struggling to make ends meet in these difficult economic times, books and reading may be their last priorities. Yet, reading is the very skill these children need most to succeed in school and move beyond a life of poverty.


(1)National Center for Family Literacy, Research Facts and Figures, 2000.

(2)Anne Henderson and Karen Mapp, "A Wave of New Evidence: The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on Student Achievement" (Austin: Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, 2002). National Center for Family Literacy, "All About Families: Benefits of Reading to Children" (Issue No. 2, January 27, 2003).

(3)Data aggregated from: "Washington State Report Card" (Olympia: OSPI, 2005), March 19, 2006.