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Childhood literacy in Kent County on downward trend, data shows

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Importance of childhood literacy in Kent County
Posted at 6:26 AM, Sep 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-09 06:26:20-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — How well a child reads by the end of third grade can affect their education.

Statistics show half of the third-grade students in Kent County are not performing well, and the pandemic most likely won’t help that.

FOX 17 caught up with the Great Start Collaborative of Kent County to talk about the importance of childhood literacy and why, now more than ever, we continue to help get books into the hands of kids.

In the most recent year, third-grader proficiency in reading in Kent county is at 50.3% according to the Kid’s Count Data from the Michigan League for Public Policy, and the trend shows literacy levels worsening.

“Children are not ready to read when they're coming in third grade,” says Leslie Hawkins, Coordinator at Great Start Collaborative of Kent County. "That’s why it's so important in those early years we don't just wait for them to get to school. Don't wait for them to get to first grade to read ... At home, parents are their child's first and most important teacher."

Especially now with many families learning virtually, it’s important for children to stay on top of their reading.

“If you don't have the reading skills school gets harder and harder," says Hawkins. "You won't be able to read the science textbooks, you won't be able to read the English books that you have as you get into middle school and high school so those reading skills are important not just to be able to read it but to also comprehend it.”

Literacy begins at home, and there are simple ways to build literacy skills. You can read labels with your child in the grocery store or simply ask questions about the books they’re reading.

Spending just 15 minutes a day reading with your child will overall make a huge difference.

As far as how has this pandemic affected our kids yet, it may be too soon to tell. Hawkins says we should have a better idea this fall, in about a month or two, as kids move forward into the next grade.

If you’d like to help with childhood literacy right here in our own community and take part in our If You Give a Child a Book campaign, click here. The Scripps family of companies has provided a $5,000 matching fund for donations made by FOX 17 viewers, so your donation can be doubled. All money raised in West Michigan benefits children in Title 1 schools within Grand Rapids Public Schools.