The Achievement Gap: Issues of Access & Practice

posted Nov 7, 2010, 1:55 PM by Beverly Koopman   [ updated Nov 7, 2010, 2:53 PM ]

Actually, the number is ever so slightly higher than 100,000 words per year, but this number makes the math easy to grasp and demonstrates the magnitude of the problem that leads to a huge gap in achievement.

In their entire educational careers, reluctant and non-proficient readers do not read as many words as our proficient readers are exposed to in a single year.  The gap between proficient and non-proficient readers grows with every day, every month and every year.  Early readers consume more books, but I was unable to find any research that attempted to estimate how many words children are being exposed to as they read picture books and early chapter books.  Ten years estimates student reading from eight years through eighteen years of age.  The estimates are rough, yet still profound taken from even the most conservative interpretation.

Non-proficient readers miss out on building the background knowledge necessary to think more complex thoughts and the vocabulary building to be able to develop increasing control and precision over their speech and their ideas.  How can we help?  There is not just one need, but certainly getting more books into the hand of our children at earlier ages is an important step.  Children must be exposed to a lot of text, both in and outside of school, if they are to be able to make up lost ground (if they are behind) and be competitive for the best opportunities afforded the most proficient readers and most successful students.  Thus, it is an issue of access and equity, but cannot be accomplished without the cooperation of families.