Centre de recherche interuniversitaire sur la formation et la profession enseignante (CRIFPE)

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O'Reilly, T., Sands, A., Wang, Z., Dreier, K. & Sabatini, J. (2019). Curbing America's Reading Crisis: A Call to Action for Our Children. Princeton, USA : The ETS Center for Research on Human Capital and Education.


Reading involves the development of vocabulary and subskills that are key to unlocking a child's potential in school and beyond. Without adequate knowledge and skills associated with learning how to read, children's grades don't just suffer in English and language arts classes. They may find themselves struggling to understand what's expected of them to solve math problems. The ability to digest information and do skillful work in classes such as science and history is hindered as well. As those children grow into adulthood, the consequences only multiply. Low literacy rates have been associated with higher dropout and incarceration rates, and even thoughts of suicide.1 Adults who struggle to read are more likely to have difficulty navigating our increasingly complex healthcare system, planning for a career, and more. Also, adults at the lowest proficiency level of literacy in a national test have been shown to earn less than half as much as those at the highest level.2 America is in a reading crisis. Of that, there can be little doubt. As the authors of this new report point out, two in three American fourth-graders are performing below proficient in the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP)—known as the "Nation's Report Card." There's another troubling component to this crisis. We are leaving important segments of our society behind. Despite decades of effort to close the achievement gap, results show that the percentage of White fourth-graders scoring proficient or higher in literacy is roughly double that of Hispanics, and 2½ times higher than Blacks (47% for Whites, 23% for Hispanics, and 20% for Blacks). Although the national public average of only 35 percent scoring proficient or higher is concerning enough, large cities tend to score much lower. In fact, a mere 5 percent of Detroit fourth-graders scored proficient or higher in the NAEP literacy exam—in other words, 19 out of every 20 students in Detroit are at risk of the array of negative consequences laid out here. The ETS Center for Research on Human Capital and Education has issued a series of reports aimed at identifying key problems in our children's achievement struggles in America's educational system and proposing ways to address them. In this newest report from the Center, the authors open our eyes to the fact that just because our expectations are that students beyond fifth grade have mastered the mechanics of how to read, it doesn't mean they have done so. Raising comprehension scores is a futile exercise for a significant subset of children still wrestling with how to decode the words and sentences in front of them. Furthermore, the authors also highlight the critical role that background knowledge plays in reading comprehension. Students lacking the necessary background knowledge related to the topics of the texts they read may fall below a threshold and fail to comprehend a text. 


Logos des universités associées au CRIFPE

Adresse civique

Université de Montréal
Faculté des Sciences de l'Éducation
90, avenue Vincent d'Indy
Pavillon Marie-Victorin – C-536
Outremont (Québec) H2V 2S9

Adresse postale

Université de Montréal
Faculté des Sciences de l'Éducation
CRIFPE – C-543
C.P. 6128, succursale Centre-ville
Montréal (Québec) H3C 3J7