There has been a major dust-up over the past year or so about the materials available to our children in our school libraries and even our county libraries. While I do not condone or believe that our school libraries are an appropriate place for many of these books, I am far more concerned with the ability of our children to be able to read.
According to the Wyoming Department of Education’s WYTOPP scores from school year 2021-2022, only 47.89% of our third graders are reading at a proficient or above proficient level. That means a majority of our children are leaving the third grade not reading proficiently.
Why does this matter?
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, “The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence and crime is welded to reading failure. Over 70% of inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level.”
If your child cannot read by the time they leave third grade, they are nearly six times more likely to drop out of school and not earn a high school diploma. High school graduates earn on average $400,000 more in their lifetimes compared to those who drop out.
Some may question this opinion and say we can do both. We absolutely can. These two issues are not mutually exclusive.
I am simply stating that the noise has been surrounding books, but a more pressing issue is the fact that more than half of children in Wyoming aren’t reading proficiently. To me, this seems like our priorities are out of order. Our efforts should be focused on getting our kids to read more and proficiently.
I understand the concern from parents and guardians. The availability of crude, pornographic and age-inappropriate information being available to our children is not acceptable.
My sense is that we should be working toward getting parents, teachers, administrators, students and others engaged in our children’s reading proficiency. I am encouraging all parents to spend more time with their kids learning how to read and advocating for policies to improve reading proficiency.
In my eight years of serving the people of Wyoming, I have witnessed school districts, the teachers’ union and parents alike rally against screening for reading difficulties including, but not limited to, dyslexia and dysgraphia, as well as pushing to remove or reduce testing from the classroom completely.
We cannot stand by idly and watch our children fall behind. It takes a village! We must continue to screen and test our kids to ensure they are able to read!
Until our children can learn to read proficiently to support a society with less incarceration, higher paying jobs and less dependency on government, I think our priorities should be better focused.
Let’s focus on helping the kids learn to read and worry less about banning books!
Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, is a member of the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Education Committee.