ELF 2.0 logo
A Resource for Libraries

Find us on ELF2.0 Pinterest account ELF2.0 Youtube account ELF2.0 Facebook account ELF2.0 Twitter account

Kids and their parents at the library Parents playing peek-a-boo A parent reading a book with a child Kid playing at the library


a mom and kids reading a book Up until 4th grade, children are essentially learning to read but from 4th grade on they are reading to learn. Children who don't read at grade level by the end of 3rd grade are four times more likely not to graduate from high school than more proficient readers. According to the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress, 47% of these low performing students come from low-income families.

What predicts 3rd grade reading levels? The number of words a child knows by the time they are 2-3 years old! Yet as early as 18 months, low-income children begin to fall behind in vocabulary development. They tend to:

  • Have few, if any, books in the home,
  • Hear as many as 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers, and
  • By age 5 many recognize only 9 letters of the alphabet compared to a typical middle-class child who recognizes 22 letters.

There is hope though. Parents can play an enormous role in closing this gap, as can daycare providers, pediatricians, preschools teachers…and of course librarians! a dad reading a book to a boyIF we start early – long before formal education in school – by providing stimulating, literacy rich environments for young children and by encouraging parents to talk, read, and sing with their children every day.

Children learn best through their relationships with the significant people in their lives. Just like learning to talk, if these significant adults imbue books and reading with value, books and reading become a magical world begging to be de-coded...and that feeling of magic is what opens the door to reading!