Children’s Literacy in America and La Porte County

Posted on April 23, 2021

by Kaitlin Weiss

“There is probably no single cause more popular than literacy.”1 Approximately 12 percent or 126 million children in the world today are considered to be illiterate or functionally illiterate. Illiterate means that a person can’t read a single word. Functionally illiterate means that a person has a basic or below basic ability to read. 


U.S.  Children’s Literacy Rates

The United States literacy rates are far behind the literacy rates of Japan, Canada, the Republic of Korea, and the UK. Around two-thirds of our graduates from high school and the same number of fourth graders read below grade level. The American Library Association says a child who is a poor reader at the end of first grade has a 90 percent chance of still being a poor reader at the end of fourth grade. Children who do not read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to leave high school without a diploma than proficient readers. If a child is reading at their grade level or above they are considered literate.2


La Porte County Data

As of 2017 La Porte County had approximately 17,741 students enrolled in public schools. 1,158 students or 88.8 percent of the students graduated from high school that year. About 52.7 percent of the students that year were receiving free and reduced lunches. 90.6 percent of the third grade students passed the IREAD 3 reading test. Only 67.5 percent of the fourth graders who took the language arts ISTEP test passed, 57.3 percent of the eighth graders passed, and 55.3 percent of the tenth graders passed the ISTEP test.3


Illiteracy Affects on Parents and Their Children

Not being able to read can affect people’s health, employment, and poverty rates. If a child’s parent struggles with literacy the child will most likely struggle, as well. Both parent and child may find it difficult to find employment and have a steady income. If parents are able to climb out of illiteracy and poverty then their children will be more likely to succeed.4 Parents it starts with you!


How can you raise a reader? 

Learning to read starts when we are babies. Even though babies can’t talk yet, they make sounds–coos to babbling to talking, then drawing to reading to writing. It’s important for you to talk, sing, play, write and read with your child every day. This is a learning process for babies and they need each step of the process to become proficient readers. 


Children frequently dislike reading because they aren’t proficient or good readers. If your child is reading below grade level, talk to your child’s teacher to see what level they are reading. Then go to the library and find books that are at that level or below and have them read the books every night. Because they’re reading at a level they comprehend they will build confidence and start to read more and become better readers. If they feel positive about reading they will be more likely to read. 


More suggestions that could help your child become a better reader:

  • Read to your child every day and start when they are babies. Here’s a great article on How to Raise a Reader from Reading Rockets.
  • Pick books that will interest your child, not what you think they should be interested in reading. When children say, “I enjoy this, I’m good at it” they are more likely to read. 
  • Reading can take on many different forms and doesn’t have to be from only a book. If your child likes baseball and collects baseball cards, they’re reading the card which is a form of reading. Children won’t think of it as reading if it interests them. Let them read what they want to read–whether it is comic books, magazines, baseball cards, etc.
  • Make sure your child has access to books. If you don’t have many books at home, come to the library where you can pick out as many books as you would like. 
  • Make sure your child is reading daily. If your child doesn’t like to read, an option could be for them to listen to the audiobook while having a physical copy of the book. Then follow along in the book when listening to the audiobook. 
  • If your child is struggling with reading the library works with an organization called READ La Porte County, Inc. Their mission is to increase reading, math, English and digital literacy skills in the community through tutoring and through advocacy. You can fill out an application by going to their website or asking for one at the library.
  • Bring your babies or preschoolers to storytimes at the library where we incorporate the Every Child Ready to Read program into our storytimes. We have Play and Learn, our 0-24 month storytime, every Thursday at 10:00am in the large meeting room. Stories and More, our preschool storytime, is every Friday at 10:00am in the large meeting room. These storytimes provide resources for parents and caregivers who want to give their children a boost on literacy starting at a very young age. The storytimes aren’t so much about teaching literacy skills to your children. They are to let you know what you can do to encourage your children to read more. So you know why that can be so important to lifelong literacy. Sign up for storytimes!


1- “Mapping the American Literacy Ecosystem” by Ian Chant
2- “How Serious Is America’s Literacy Problem” by Amy Rea
4- “How Serious Is America’s Literacy Problem” by Amy Rea

Kaitlin Weiss

Kaitlin Weiss

Kaitlin (Kaiti) worked as a K-5 Media Specialist at two elementary schools in Hammond for 13 years before she became a member of the Community Engagement Team. She enjoys storytimes with the babies, going out into the classroom to teach lessons, and creating fun programs for the community. When not reading a book you can find her spending time with her two nephews, family, and friends, traveling to new places, crafting, and binge watching TV shows.
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