Nationally, 80 percent of children in low-income families cannot read at their grade level by third grade, according to the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. That is a tremendous problem, given that 23 percent of the schoolchildren in West Virginia live in poverty, according to the Census Bureau.
Poverty is linked to a lack of education. People who do not read are not as likely to raise children who read. Breaking this cycle is a challenge.
This week, dozens of volunteers gathered in Charleston to kick off the Leaders of Literacy Campaign to support early literacy initiatives across the state, supported by the state Department of Education. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin gave opening remarks.
“We think every child should be able to read at grade level by third grade,” Tomblin said.
Former first lady Gayle Manchin, president of the state Board of Education, told the gathering, “It’s so easy for us to say, ‘I do this. That’s not my problem because I do this.’ Or, ‘This is all about teachers. We have to ensure they’re better.’ That is certainly one facet but one of the things the state board has done in connection with that is making sure that our teachers, our new teachers, graduate college really proficient in reading.”
Yes, governors and first ladies in West Virginia have pushed education for years. But progress is slowly being made. The problem did not occur overnight and it will not be magically disappear one morning.
Hats off to those thousands of volunteers and teachers across the state who continue to fight the good fight. Things of value take the greatest effort and time.