Hello: So great to be here for this day. (Give some examples from the day) say a lot about ALD and your commitment to your community. This staff day, devoted to this topic, is unlike any in other libraries around the country. I think you are on the forefront of where libraries need to go. This shows you have visionary leaders and you are all dedicated to making meaningful change. I really admire that. Me: Just some background on me. I am the director of Library Development which means I work with libraries of all type to help them provide excellent service to their communities and to make meaningful impacts. So naturally, that is why I am so excited by the initiatives at ALD. You are leaders in this area. Full disclosure about me, I started my career in libraries over 20 years ago in children’s and youth services. So I have a bias that youth and family services are one of the most important things libraries can do for our communities. I also work at the Dept. of Education which means I am very concerned about kids and learning and how that leads to their success.
So here is our class of 24 kids in kindergarten. So in terms of kindergarten readiness some are already acculturated to school and learning in a structured environment.
For example, Taylor, here, has been read to on average 10 minutes a day for the first five years of his life. By the time he was one, he knew how to open a book and turn the pages. By the time he was three, he knew that those squiggly images on the page were letters and that those etters represent sounds and those sounds combine to make words. He has heard many stories that have shown in many worlds beyond his own.
Through being read aloud to from a young age, these kids learned to focus and pay attention, have self-control, understand other’s perspectives, communicate effectively, make connections between concepts, think critically, take on challenges, and be self-directed and engaged in learning.
However, while many of the children have been read to as babies and young children, some of the kids show up at kindergarten having never held a book, having never been read to. The do not know as many words, in fact, they know hundreds less than the other students. They do not have the same level of attention, listening skills, learning habits and the like. In some cases, these children are already as much as two years behind in school. They can catch up; but it will be a struggle and their self esteem may struggle along with them.
So let’s jump ahead to fourth grade with our class…
They may also struggle in math, writing, and other aspects of school. They typically can make some of that up during the school year but some will not read in their leisure time and during summer, which means their skills don’t develop as fast. Of course, the library serves a role in promoting recreational reading including summer reading, right?
By eighth grade, our class of 24 is averaging only 1/3 reading at or above reading level on reading tests. It is getting harder to catch up as the kids get older but they still can if they are motivated.
They perform even worse on reading tests. So there is cause for concern but they still have high school to catch up.
So, let me just cut to the point, of the 24 kindergarteners, how many do you think will graduate from high school? All? 20 or more? Less than 20? 18 will graduate and six will drop out.
Let’s just revisit this staggering statistic. On average,1 in 4 students drop out of high school every year. That’s over 13,000 students in Colorado. It’s not a surprising statistic in Colorado. It’s the norm. We have an epidemic in our society. But before I talk more about our six drop outs and their lives, and the cost to our communities, let’s look to those that go to college.
So half of our graduates are going to go to college. This is about the average in Colorado depending on the school. Let’s just say 5 go to community college or a two year college; the national average is that 2 of the 5 will need remedial help to bring them up to college level. At the four year college level, 1 in 4 freshman needs remedial help. The national estimate is the higher education spends approximately $1 billion annually on remedial education for students. Of course, the figure is much higher for k-12 education; but that’s another story.
We are faced with a serious problem that urgently needs to be addressed.
So let’s just envision that we do graduate more students, and more go to college. They make more money, live healthier lives, and contribute more to our community. We can make this happen. Each of us has the power to improve children in our communities. How? What is the single greatest predictor of high school drop outs? Low reading. Low reading in 6 th grade. Low reading in 3 rd grade. All of which doesn’t start in Kindergarten, does it?
Remember those kids from the kindergarten class? What separated those who were developmentally ready and those who were already behind in school? Those that had many experiences with books and reading, remember? Have better attention spans, more critical thinking, the list, well you have heard it many times before today.
It starts here. Do families read together? Do parents provide their children with early experiences with books, language, and learning? The first three years of a person’s life is vital to learning. A baby is born with so much potential and the activities and engagement they participate in in the first three years of life set the course. Let’s help all children get off to a bright start. The public library has a salient role because we are the primary community center for early literacy. You have heard about it today. This is exactly what this day is about.
We need to encourage all families to read together, use the library, attend storytime. Engage in language, song, rhymes, and stories. So that children can grow and learn; they can show up together in kindergarten with the skills we talked about today; they can read at grade level or above in fourth grade, eighth grade and throughout their schooling. We want them to graduate and move on to healthy, successful, and productive lives. When we nurture reading from a young age we contribute to better lives for those we serve; AND this will lead to a health, vibrant, and strong community for each of us. So I thank you for the work you are doing today and the direction you are going. You are each truly going to make a difference in so many lives and ultimately in our society as a whole. You are an inspiration to other libraries everywhere. Best wishes and good luck.
Successful Kids = Strong Community
Successful Kids = Strong Communities Sharon Morris, Co State Library Sparking Connections ALD Staff Development Day October 10, 2011
Colorado 8 th Graders: 16 of 24 (2/3) test below reading level
# of 24 students to graduate in four years? 18 6
Colorado drop out rate for 2009, 27.7% . 1 in 4 students drop out of high school
5 community college – 2 will need remedial help as freshmen 4 to four-year college or university – 1 will need remedial help $1 Billion Annually College
Of 24 original students, an average of five will graduate from college in 4-5 year time frame. They will make over $1 million dollars more than the high school graduate over a forty year period .
Dropping Out – A closer look 15% less likely to be employed Earn 30% less that those with diploma/GED Less healthy Die at younger age Higher risk of entanglement with criminal justice system More likely to have children at a younger age
Dropping Out – Cost to society 15% less likely to be employed Earn 30% less that those with diploma/GED Will not contribute as many taxes as others More likely to need social welfare assistance Less healthy Die at younger age Need more health resources; not as likely to have health insurance – Medicaid costs Higher risk of entanglement with criminal justice system Cost of corrections for inmates costs millions More likely to have children at a younger age Creates a cycle of poverty and low education among children (unless there is intervention by them or externally)
Nationally If we cut the dropout rate in half… we could gain back $45 billion annually.