Reading by fourth grade vital to success

Laurie Frost and Jeff Henriques:

Thank you for your excellent article on the increase in juvenile crime in our city. May we suggest a followup story?

It is well known that students who are not reading proficiently by fourth grade — when “learning to read” becomes “reading to learn” — do not fare well. For example, they are four times more likely to drop out of school and two-thirds of them will end up in prison or on welfare.

Here are the fourth-grade reading data for the MMSD going back to 2005-06.

We can’t help but wonder if the students we fail to teach to read in early elementary school are the same ones who are “acting out” behaviorally in middle and high school.

If so, might they be trying to tell us something?

Apparently the Madison Police Department sees the same connection between reading level and behavior that we do because it has a new fund — the “Community Reading Fund” — aimed at supporting the educational needs of at-risk students. Readers can make an end-of-year donation to the fund at or by sending a check (made out to “MCPF — Community Read”) to the Madison Community Policing Foundation, P.O. Box 44246, Madison, WI, 53744.

Laurie Frost and Jeff Henriques


Related: Madison Wisconsin High School Graduation Rates, College Readiness, and Student Learning.