According to Connie Juel, a Stanford University reading researcher, 88% of students who are poor readers in first grade will remain poor readers at the end of fourth grade. The Annie E. Casey Foundation reports that if children are not proficient readers by the end of third grade, they are four times more likely to drop out of high school. Poor readers don’t just “catch up.”

A 1993 report from the U.S. Department of Justice links academic failure to delinquency, stating that this link is “welded to reading failure.” According to the U.S. Department of Education, 85% of children in the juvenile justice system have reading problems. Seventy percent of incarcerated adults read below a fourth-grade level. Wyoming spends about $300 million annually on incarceration.

Editor’s note: This is the second in a planned series of semimonthly columns from the co-founders of WY Lit, a new nonprofit advocacy organization created after they were instrumental in the passage of Wyoming House Bill 297, related to K-3 reading screening and intervention. They have been contracted by the Wyoming Department of Education on several literacy projects, and the intent of these columns is to educate the general public about literacy issues.

Heather Fleming is co-founder of the nonprofit WY Lit. She is a certified structured literacy teacher and will complete her master’s degree in Reading Science at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 2020. She provides a variety of training for educators and parents of struggling readers. Email: heather@wylit.org.

Kari Roden is co-founder of WY Lit. She is currently an intensive reading interventionist in Laramie County School District 1. Her expertise is in dyslexia and individualized, data-driven instruction for struggling readers. Email: kari@wylit.org.

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