Reading and economic opportunity

Traci MurphySept. 30, 2022

Reading is the gateway to all other learning. It leads to academic success, personal empowerment and greater economic opportunities down the road. But if you can’t read very well, you don’t read very much. And poor reading skills make it hard to keep up in other subjects.  

Children who read proficiently by third grade will be more successful in school. Yet, according to the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, more than 80 percent of children from low-income homes miss this crucial milestone every year. By the end of third grade, proficiency in reading allows students to shift from learning to read to reading to learn. This means students can master the more complex subject matter they encounter in more advanced subjects including STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum.

Literacy and economic opportunity go hand in hand, and a nation of proficient readers would lead to financial gains across the country. According to a study by Gallup, completed on behalf of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy,  if all adults in the United States moved up to at least the minimum level of reading proficiency, it would generate an additional $2.2 trillion in annual income for the country.

The study also shows the average annual income of adults reading at the minimum level of proficiency is nearly $63,000, significantly higher than those reading at low levels of proficiency, who earn just over $34,000 on average.

But it’s not just about dollars and cents. The ability to read also supports social, emotional and physical well-being and affects everything from crime rates to health outcomes.

“Eradicating illiteracy would be enormously valuable under any circumstances. Given the current economic and health challenges, there is even more at stake in ensuring that everyone can fully participate in society.” – Jonathan Rothwell, Principal Economist, Gallup

How you can help:

Students reading at grade level and above can be a reality in the Kansas City metro.

“While funding and support from the federal and state level is needed, when parents, teachers, administrators and community leaders all get involved, amazing things can happen.” – Nick Gaehde, President, Lexia Learning

With our team of 1,000 volunteer Reading Mentors, and our high-dosage tutoring program at our partner schools, Lead to Read KC is ready to help create a city full of confident young readers who will be come our future leaders. We hope you will join us. Learn more here.

1 Assessing the Economic Gains of Eradicating Illiteracy Nationally and Regionally in the United States, Jonathan Rothwell, Ph.D.