Kids - Books & Reading


It doesn't take money or years of education
to raise a reader, it only takes a little time,
a lot of love, and a library.

You have what it takes!

Literacy Facts and Statistics

Compiled by Jeanine Asche
Youth, Family and Literacy Services Manager
San Mateo County Library

Most of the reading problems faced by today's adolescents and adults are the result of problems that might have been avoided or resolved in their early childhood years (National Research Council, 2000.  "Reading is typically acquired relatively predictably by children who… have had experiences in early childhood that fostered motivation and provided exposure to literacy in use. National Research Council, 2000

The single most significant factor influencing a child’s early educational success isan introduction to books and being read to at home prior to beginning school. National Commission on Reading, 1985

The only behavior measure that correlates significantly with reading scores is the number of books in the home. An analysis of a national data set of nearly 100,000 United States school children found that access to printed materials--and not poverty--is the "critical variable affecting reading acquisition." Jeff McQuillan, The Literacy Crisis: False Claims, Real Solutions, 1998. Children who have not already developed some basic literacy practices when they enter school are three to four times more likely to drop out in later years.  National Adult Literacy Survey, 1993

Great disparities exist among middle-and low income communities in resources available in homes or child-care sites.  Feitelson, and Goldstain for example found that 60 percent of the kindergartners in neighborhoods where children did poorly in school did not own a single book.  D. Feitelson and Z. Goldstein,  The patterns of book ownership;. Reading Teacher 89, 924-30 (1986).

61 percent of low-income families have no books at all in their homes for their children. While low-income children have--on average--roughly four children's books in their homes, a team of researchers recently concluded that nearly two thirds of the low-income families they studied owned no books for their children. Reading Literacy in the United States, 1996.

60% of the kindergartners in neighborhoods where children did poorly in school did not own a single book.  The Patterns of Book Ownership and Reading, D. Feitelson and Z. Goldstein, 1986

A typical middle class child enters first grade with approximately 1,000 hours of being read to, while the corresponding child from a low-income family averages just 25 of those hours, such differences in the availability of book resources may have unintended and pernicious consequences for low-income children' long term success in schooling. M. Adams, Beginning to read. (MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1990).

Children in low-income families lack essential one-on-one reading time. A recent report by the Packard and MacArthur Foundations found that the average child growing up in a middle class family has been exposed to 1,000 to 1,700 hours of one-on-one picture book reading. The average child growing up in a low-income family, in contrast, has only been exposed to 25 hours of one-on-one reading. Jeff McQuillan, The Literacy Crisis: False Claims, Real Solutions, 1998.

The most successful way to improve the reading achievement of low-income children is to increase their access to print. Communities ranking high in achievement tests have several factors in common: an abundance of books in public libraries, easy access to books in the community at large and a large number of textbooks per student.  Newman, Sanford, et all. "American's Child Care Crisis: A Crime Prevention Tragedy"; Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, 2000.

One-half of all adults in federal and state correctional institutions cannot read or write at all. Only about one-third of those in prison have completed high school.  As reported in the 1986 publication entitled making Literacy Programs Work: A Practical Guide for Correctional Educators (for the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Corrections).

70% of mothers on welfare have reading skills in the lowest two proficiency levels. This fact is particularly alarming considering that a mother's literacy level is one of the most significant predictors of a child's future literacy ability.  The State Of Literacy In America, 1998. Information contained in the "welfare" bullet from "The Pennsylvania State, Literacy Survey," Adult Literacy in Pennsylvania, Education Testing Service, 1995.

7 in 10 prisoners perform at the lowest two literacy skill levels.  The State Of Literacy In America, 1998. Information contained in the "welfare" bullet from "The Pennsylvania State, Literacy Survey," Adult Literacy in Pennsylvania, Education Testing Service, 1995.

The gap between children from low and high-income families on reading comprehension scores is over 40 points. Children from low-income families, on average, score 27 points below the mean reading level score for all students. Students from wealthy families score 15 points above the average. The Condition of Education, NationalCenter for Education Statistics, 1993.

The results have indicated that those parents who have received the Reach Out and Read intervention are two to four times more likely to choose book sharing as an activity with their children than those parents for whom no such intervention has been provided.  Needlman, High, Sanders, et al various studies between 1990 and 1999

Communication and language is the area in which children need the greatest help – 55% of children had no proficiency or only beginning levels of proficiency in skills related to recognizing rhyming words; 35% in recognizing all letters of the alphabet; 33% in engaging with books; and 25% in having expressive abilities.   Ready For School? A Report on Skill Levels of San MateoCountyKindergartners. Peninsula Partnership for Children, Youth and Families. Executive Summary, 2004.

According to the National Academy on an Aging Society, 73 billion dollars is the estimated annual cost of low literacy skills in the form of longer hospital stays, emergency room visits, more doctor visits, and increased medication. “Toward a Literate Nation”, Luis Herrera, Public Libraries, Jan/Feb 2004.

5 things every family can do to raise a reader
  1. Read out loud to or with your child at least once a day. Even if it's as little as 10 minutes and no matter how young the child, the sound of your voice, the example you set and the time you spend together will make a lasting impression.
  2. Visit the library at least once a month. Libraries have early literacy programs, books and materials to help you raise a reader. A visit to the library will be among your child's most treasured memories.
  3. Get your child a library card. A library card can open doors to knowledge and imagination and is an important tool for reading and educational success.
  4. Attend library story times and other programs for families and children. Story times are fun and educational for children and demonstrate reading strategies and give examples of great children’s literature for parents. Other programs and events at the library are a chance for you and your child to meet your neighbors, connect with your community and learn more about the world around you.
  5. Read. You are the most important teacher your child will ever have. Young children naturally want to be just like their parents. Readers raise readers.

Growing Readers
Teaching Your Preschooler to Love Reading
(Excerpts from Growing Readers,
a video produced by the Kansas City, Kansas Public Library)

Growing Readers - 1
Growing Readers - 2
Growing Readers - 3
Growing Readers - 4
Growing Readers - 5