When I was in grade school, at least one teacher always had a sign in the classroom that said “reading is fundamental.” This is as true now as it was then. Learning how to read is a fundamental skill that can determine the course of one’s life. But you don’t have to take my word for it – the statistics speak for themselves.
According to the Children’s Literacy Foundation, students who don’t read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely than proficient readers to drop out of high school. As you might imagine, those at the lowest literacy levels have a higher rate of unemployment and earn lower wages than average. In addition, a staggering 75 percent of state prison inmates did not complete high school or can be classified as low literate.
Beyond the obvious social devastation, low literacy costs the U.S. at least $225 billion every single year in non-productivity in the workforce, crime and loss of tax revenue due to unemployment.
To make matters worse, the problem is cyclical. Children that have parents with low literacy skills have a 72 percent chance of being at the lowest reading levels themselves. Reading is fundamental for folks to earn an education, find a job and make a life for themselves.
Fortunately, if you are reading this, you’re likely not among the nearly 20% of adults in Texas who are at the lowest literacy level. However, you have an important role to play to ensure that our kids don’t slip into the summer slide, a nationwide trend showing that many students start the new academic year with lower reading skills than at the beginning of summer break.
In fact, a 2017 Brookings study found that on average, students’ achievement scores declined over summer vacation by one month’s worth of school-year learning. The decline varies between subjects and ages, but the extent of loss is far greater among lower income students.
Overall, the summer slide can perpetuate years of unnecessary hardship for the next generation of Americans.
Together, it’s our job to change this trend so that every student in South and West Texas has a chance for success. That’s why I’m challenging parents and teachers from San Antonio to El Paso to encourage students to take on the TX-23 Summer Reading Surge and read five books this summer before school starts back up in the fall.
There are plenty of ways to keep kids on track with their reading while enjoying a nice summer with your family. For example, our public libraries offer invaluable resources for learning at all ages. Especially in this summer heat, our kids can travel around the world, to space, and to any land they can imagine just by turning a page.
What are you and your family reading this summer? I want to know. I encourage you to post your summer reading list on social media with the hashtag #SummerReadingSurge and be sure to follow along on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube at @HurdontheHill.
A former undercover CIA officer, entrepreneur and cybersecurity expert, Will Hurd is the U.S. Representative for the 23rd Congressional District of Texas. In Washington, he serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, as Vice Chair of the Maritime and Border Security Subcommittee on the Committee for Homeland Security, and as the Chairman of the Information Technology Subcommittee on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.