We should be concerned

A disturbing study was released this week by the West Virginia KIDS COUNT about the proficiency of pupils at the end of the third grade.

KIDS COUNT reported more than seven in 10 children in the state can’t read proficiently by the end of third grade, and the organization said research shows they probably won’t ever catch up.

The study is based on the results of the 2011-12 WESTest, which measures reading and language arts proficiency.

KIDS COUNT said up until the end of the third grade, pupils are “learning to read,” but, from the fourth grade on they are “reading to learn.” The organization said fourth-graders who can’t read well are at a high risk of never catching up with their peers.

Third-grade reading proficiency has improved across the country, but, in West Virginia, the number has bounced around but remained well below the national level.

Several statewide factors come into play for the poor results. They include the mother’s education level, problems at birth, low family income, lack of high-quality preschool programs and poor nutrition. The state ranks 40th in those factors. One in five babies in the state is born to a mother without a high school education, one in four children live in poverty and only one in five 3-year-olds are enrolled in a preschool program.

Three of the local counties in the Northern Panhandle ranked in the top six in the state for third-grade reading proficiency. The study showed 54 percent of third-graders in Ohio County are considered proficient, nearly 53 percent in Brooke County and 50 percent in Hancock County.

Eighteen counties in West Virginia had 60 percent of their third-graders not at third-grade reading levels. Monroe County had the worst result, with 71 percent not proficient in third-grade reading.

Education leaders throughout the state have to be concerned about the results.

So do parents.

The economy of the state and the education level of its citizens play a big role, but educators have to overcome those obstacles to teach children to read. Parents also have to play a more important role in the education of their children. Parents always want their children to do better than they did as far as education. But it takes work.

Children today are faced with many distractions. Reading was once a daily activity of children, whether for school or for pleasure. Now it is video games, the Internet and cell phones. Texting can’t be considered a form of reading.

Parents have to control those distractions and place more emphasis on picking up a book.

Educators also need to make sure children are prepared to enter the fourth grade.

Obviously, what is going on now in schools in West Virginia isn’t working.