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Children reading books at the park

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) provides information on state and national student achievement in grades four, eight, and twelve through what is known as “The Nation’s Report Card.”

According to the results of The Nation’s Report Card, when compared to previous years, the average reading scores for fourth grade students in 2019 showed one state scored higher, 17 states scored lower, and 34 states/jurisdictions had no significant change in scores.

Alabama Results

In these results, Alabama’s reading report card score was seven points lower than the national average. In 2019, 28 percent of Alabama students performed at or above the NAEP proficient level.

These scores indicate that action needs to be taken to increase literacy proficiency. Lack of proficient literacy skills has far-reaching consequences for students and society. Therefore, improvements in reading are necessary and will require action from schools, communities, and families.

In 2019, the Alabama legislature voted to focus specific attention on early grade literacy, especially third grade reading. According to state superintendent of education Eric Mackey, the primary goal of the Alabama Literacy Act is to “align support to assist all K-3 educators as they instruct, intervene, and support all students in achieving grade-level reading status by the end of third grade.”

The Children’s Reading Foundation asserts that by the end of third grade, 74 percent of struggling readers continue to lag behind other students. The Foundation further declared that proficient reading by third grade is a predictor of high school graduation rates. In grades K-3, students learn to read; whereas, in grades four and above, students read to learn. Early literacy skills are critical to ensure that no students are left behind.

Building Reading Skills

Families can actively engage children in fun literacy activities at home to promote reading skills. These simple ideas can help children to develop an interest in reading at home or in a classroom.

The Partnership for Reading offers these tips to help improve literacy skills.

  • Read daily. Make reading time with children a fun part of their daily activities. Read with humor and expression in your voice. Take adventures in reading.
  • Play with sound. Use rhymes, games, and songs to break and blend spoken words into smaller sounds.
  • Identify letters and the sounds they represent. Read alphabet books. Use easy books to practice letter-sound relationships in words.
  • Teach vocabulary words. As you read with children, point out and discuss new words in the text and the context in which the word is used to improve word meaning. Show connections between new words and information already learned using word games.
  • Build reading speed and accuracy. Practice and time reading passages. Let children read aloud as you listen for words read incorrectly. Repeat reading text until accurate.
  • Check for comprehension. Ask questions about what children read and elements of the story. Discuss new words from the text and any new information learned.

Not only will time spent learning reading skills improve reading comprehension skills among children, this can be an enriching experience to families.

Alabama Extension at Alabama A&M University recognizes the importance of early and proficient literacy skills. Childcare workers, parents and other family members can be a valuable aid in developing essential components of early literacy skills by participating in the Parent-Child Reading Enhancement Program (PCREP). To learn more about PCREP, contact Dorothy Brandon, Extension specialist, at 256.372.5458.


National Assessment of Educational Progress. “2019 Reading State Snapshot Report.” Accessed April 6, 2020. https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/reading/states/scores/?grade=4.

The Children’s Reading Foundation. “Third Grade Reading Success Matters.” Accessed April 6, 2010. https://www.readingfoundation.org/third-grade-reading-matters.

The Partnership for Reading. “Put Reading First Helping Your Child Learn to Read.” Accessed April 6, 2010. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/sites/default/files/publications/pubs/Documents/PRFbrochure.pdf.

State Superintendent of Education Eric G. Mackey to County and City Superintendents of Education, August 1, 2019, Alabama State Department of Education. Accessed April 6, 2020. https://www.alsde.edu/sites/memos/Memoranda/FY19-2126.pdf.

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