Nebraska’s business owners and industry leaders are acutely aware that workplace productivity depends a great deal on employees who are capable of absorbing, understanding and utilizing written information through a variety of media. We are also aware that individuals who enter the workforce without adequate reading skills are less likely to fully develop and benefit from them as working adults. Children who cannot read proficiently at the end of third grade face a daunting roadblock to their future education and professional success.
Preventing Problems is More Cost-Efficient
We know children who arrive at kindergarten without a solid foundation of early language and communications skills are likely to struggle in their classrooms and beyond. Even special education interventions are limited in their ability to fully close the widening gap that separates struggling students from their better-prepared peers. The economic burden of these costly interventions, compounded by the expense of grade retention and dropout, eventually falls to Nebraska’s taxpayers to carry.
It is far more cost-efficient to prevent problems in our workplaces than to absorb and repair the damage of those problems after they occur. The same holds true for children’s reading proficiency and overall academic preparedness. Evidence indicates that children who begin their lives in language- and literacy-rich environments are more likely to develop as stronger readers, ready to thrive in their classrooms and, eventually, the workforce. Students who are struggling with reading in the early elementary grades should receive supplemental assistance. However, by getting ahead of the problem in the early years of children’s development, we can greatly mitigate the costs of assessment and intervention later in the K-12 system.
Workforce, Economic Development Issue
Children’s reading proficiency is a workforce and economic development issue with long-term, statewide implications. Strong reading skills in K-3 begin with strong early learning experiences in the first five years. We urge our elected officials to widen the discussion of students’ reading proficiency to account for the economic benefits of high-quality early care and learning opportunities for our state’s youngest children.