No. 1311



We hear a lot these days about school dropouts and what causes this to happen to so many students. In some parts of the nation it’s as high as four out of every 10 students who start to school in kindergarten and never walk down the aisle to get a high school diploma. There are also a vast number of students who walk across the stage to the familiar refrain of “Pomp & Circumstance”, yet they can barely read, if at all, the diploma they are given.
The answer to this dilemma may be a lot simpler than many people realize. The key to reading, learning and success in school largely depends on the student’s vocabulary, especially in the early years of a child’s life.
Several years ago researchers at a major university took students in a graduating class, gave them an English vocabulary test and then tracked them for 20 years. Not surprisingly, those who knew the definition of the most words were in the highest income group 20 years later. The researchers also discovered that the people who, in the beginning, had the worst vocabulary scores were in the lowest income group two decades later. Now, here is something that should give all of us a reason to give pause. There was not a single exception.
It is important to note that students in this study were college graduates. How about the millions of students who graduate from high school but never enroll in an institution of higher learning? And, let’s go a little lower on the scale. How about the millions of students who drop out of high school but never graduate?
If one or more of these students happens to be your child or grandchild, do you have any idea what kind of life he or she will have in our society as a high school dropout? In the vast majority of cases, high school dropouts face a life of much lower income, even if they can find a job, and this leads to all kinds of problems for society. We are all affected by high school dropouts, whether we know it or not or whether we like it or not. One of the primary reasons American schools are struggling today is the change that has taken place over the past several decades regarding parental reading habits. A study found that in 1955, 81 percent of parents read to their children. Today, that number is around 21 percent. We know that parents must be involved in their children’s education for them to succeed in school, but that involvement must begin earlier in the home.
Needless to say, children who come from homes where reading and education are priorities have a tremendous advantage over children who come from homes where there are few, if any, books and where parents read to them. So, back to the subject at hand, “Mommy, please read to me.” If you are a parent, grandparent or other responsible person in the life of a toddler or pre-school child, please consider seriously what I am saying. You could never spend any more productive and satisfying time than to get a few good children’s books and read to your pre-school child or children. Just find a good time during the day when you can read to them and, before long, your child will come to you and say, “Please read to me!”
What a blessing this will be to know that you are building the foundation for a great future. What we should all know is that reading builds vocabulary. Please, never doubt, just do it!
(Editor’s Note: Jim Davidson is an author, public speaker, syndicated columnist and Founder of the Bookcase for Every Child project. Since its inception in 1995, Jim’s column has been self-syndicated to over 375 newspapers in 35 states making it one of the most successful in the history of American journalism.)