Recent research from a variety of sources has found that the majority of U.S. students do not have the reading or writing skills they need to succeed later in life, whether in college or in their careers. Students who struggle with reading comprehension and analytical writing are unable to thrive in today’s increasingly well-educated and interconnected world. These fundamental skills are necessary throughout life, whether for solving word-problems in math class, writing a resume, or giving a workplace presentation.
With this in mind, we’ve compiled some facts about the current state of language arts education in the U.S.
Here’s why you should be concerned, even if your child is keeping up with their classmates:
Academic Literacy is Declining in the U.S.
- “As Americans, especially younger Americans, read less, they read less well. Because they read less well, they have lower levels of academic achievement”– (National Endowment for the Arts (PDF))
- Average ACT scores are steadily declining, sinking to record lows in 2019 for both English and math. The English readiness rate is the lowest since the debut of the readiness measure in 2002. (Washington Post)
- “With lower levels of reading and writing ability, people do less well in the job market. Poor reading skills correlate heavily with lack of employment, lower wages, and fewer opportunities for advancement.” (National Endowment for the Arts (PDF))
Although this may seem unimportant in our STEM-focused society, it actually has some serious implications:
Academic Literacy Leads to Success in College and the Workplace
- The ability to comprehend complex reading material is linked to college success. NBC News reports that, “One major factor that separates high school graduates who are ready for college from those who aren’t, a new study shows: how well students handle complex reading.” The article goes on to state, “What differentiates students who are ready for college from the rest, is an ability to comprehend sophisticated texts that may have several layers of meaning.” (NBC News)
- All the elements of academic literacy – reading, writing, listening, speaking, critical thinking, use of technology, and habits of mind that foster academic success – are expected of entering freshmen across all college disciplines.” (The Intersegmental Committee of the Academic Senates)
- In a 2017 survey, the top 5 job skills most employers stated they weren’t seeing enough of in their younger hires included critical thinking, communication, and writing. Interestingly enough, the author of the article publishing these findings realized, “Contrary to expectation, my primary piece of advice is not to write, but to read. … When people expose themselves to good writing, their expectations heighten, particularly for what they themselves write.” (Ikaiddi)
What steps can we take to empower students to succeed?
It’s not surprising that reading more is one of the most important factors in improving academic literacy and college and workplace readiness. Here are some strategies we use to help students get more out of their reading:
- Encourage them to read a variety of texts (fiction, non-fiction, current news, etc.).
- Ensure they continue to develop the vocabulary and grammar skills required to quickly and fluently read texts.
- Engage them in analysis and critical thinking. Analytical thinking must be taught, and students must be encouraged to apply those analytical abilities to their own endeavors as well as the work of others.
- Provide opportunities for them to communicate their thoughts verbally and in writing.
- Create opportunities for them to engage in analytical discussion with their peers so that they become capable of thinking with, around, and against other thinkers in a culture of academic literacy.
- Have fun!!! Children who love to read will read more. (Yes, this has actually been proven in a college-readiness program at Elon.) Children who are accomplished readers are more likely to become effective writers and communicators!