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Reading to Learn Learning for Life


Kindergarten readiness pamphlet (English) (Spanish)

Why is Reading Important?

boy and mom.jpgChildren and students who learn to read, and see the adults around them reading, are more likely to develop the kind of critical thinking skills that will help them to stay in school, succeed in life, and contribute to their community. All children need the opportunity to succeed in their efforts to learn.

Children need positive adult mentors who are willing to build supportive relationships with them and encourage them to become productive, successful members of their community.

Why focus on literacy?

  • Children who are good readers are more likely to succeed in school, complete high school, pursue higher education and receive living-wage jobs. However, too many young children come to school not ready to learn and therefore face huge obstacles.

  • Reading promotes development of critical thinking skills that help young people make good choices.

  • Because 90 percent of brain development happens by age 5, making reading a priority in early childhood yields the greatest return on investment.

  • According to Zero to Three, “the first three years of exploring and playing with books, singing nursery rhymes, listening to stories, recognizing words, and scribbling are truly the building blocks for language and literacy development.”  (www.zerotothree.org/BrainWonders, 2003.)


  • In Oregon, 45.1 percent of children ages 0-5 are not read to every day by a parent or caregiver (Oregon and Child Health: Data and Resource Guide, 2010).

  • One out of every five children starts kindergarten not ready to learn.

  • Children need books in their lives, but in low-income neighborhoods, it is estimated that there is only one age-appropriate book for every 300 children.

  • More than 80 percent of preschool and afterschool programs serving children from low-income families need age-appropriate books for their children.

In Our Region:

  • Marion County: 

    • In 2006, 17 percent of kindergarteners did not meet the “Ready to Learn” standards and 20 percent of third grade students did not meet reading standards.

    • Marion County ranks the lowest in Oregon at reaching the third grade benchmark.

  • Polk County:

    • In 2006, 26 percent of kindergarteners did not meet the “Ready to Learn” standards and 12 percent of third grade students did not meet reading standards.

  • Yamhill County:

    • In 2006, 24 percent of kindergarteners did not meet the “Ready to Learn” standards and 11.5 percent of third graders did not meet reading standards.

(Oregon Progress Board, 2007 County Data Snapshot)


Up until the fourth grade, children learn to read. After that point, children read to learn

Consequently, children must enter school ready to learn and quickly hone their literacy skills. In middle school and high school, youth must continue to hone their skills and be encouraged to develop a lifelong habit of reading in order to succeed. While many factors influence how well a child does in an academic setting, early intellectual growth plays a crucial role. According to the United Nations Children's Fund, "Investing in children from birth to age 3 is the only way to ensure that every child has the opportunity to reach his or her full potential."

Without the abilities necessary for a solid start, children are at risk of academic difficulties that can affect their entire education

To amplify the importance of children having a strong reading skill when they enter school, the Carnegie Foundation report Ready to Learn: A Mandate for the Nation indicates a 90 percent probability that a poor reader at the end of first grade will be a poor reader at the end of the fourth grade. Children whose parents help them develop literacy skills are more likely to gain the proficiency neccessary to thrive academically.

Children need to be exposed to books at a very early age

Research demonstrates that when children listen to stories, they gain crucial language skills. Learning to read and write begins at infancy and continues throughout the toddler years. According to Dr. Paul Thompson with UCLA, "Recent neurodevelopment research has shown that even before children can read themselves, reading aloud to very young children is extremely beneficial to the child." First Books reports, “The only behavioral measure that correlates significantly with reading scores is the number of books in the home. Additionally, the more types of reading materials there are in the home, the higher students score in reading proficiency.”

Research tells us that literacy development begins in the very early stages of childhood

Early behaviors such as "reading" from pictures and "writing" with scribbles are examples of emergent literacy and are an important part of children's literacy development. With the support of parents, caregivers, early childhood educators, and teachers, as well as exposure to a literacy-rich environment, children progress from emergent to conventional reading.