Our children must read by age 9



Right now, Alaska’s public-school children are ranked dead last in the nation in fourth-grade reading proficiency, a key indicator used to measure academic success. In terms of school years, they are up to a full year behind their counterparts in other states.

This means many of our fourth graders cannot read Charlotte’s Web or The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.

While it may seem like such a simple, basic issue, the ability to read is actually the foundation of a child’s educational success; the value of reading cannot be stressed enough.

By not guaranteeing that grade-school students become proficient readers, we are failing our children. We must do everything in our power to ensure that every child is able to read well enough so that when they enter middle school and begin learning harder material, they can read to learn. Through the third grade, students learn to read. As they enter the fourth grade, they read to learn. If a child does not develop this skill, he or she will also fall behind in social studies and science. Word problems in math will be unsolvable, navigating the rich world of literature impossible, and communicating complex ideas in written and spoken word unthinkable.

Students who cannot read well almost never catch up and their future is in peril. Statistics compiled by groups like ExcelinEd are sobering. Students who cannot read by the end of the third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school. High school dropouts make up 75 percent of food stamp recipients and 90 percent of those on welfare. Nearly 85 percent of teenagers in the juvenile justice system cannot read to learn and seven out of 10 adult prisoners cannot read above a fourth-grade level.

Evidence-based research shows that a strong reading initiative can make a big difference. The Alaska Policy Forum supports a “Read by 9” policy, which provides a common sense and proven solution. It starts by making sure kindergartners know the A-B-Cs and the sounds they make. Strategies, guided by science, focus on developing critical skills through the third grade so students can read with ease, understand the material, and are starting to think critically.

We need to implement a system of instruction that places a heavier emphasis on making sure our children leave third grade with the ability to read. We want each child entering the fourth grade to do so with confidence and with the skills he or she needs to learn.

As a final safeguard, students unable to read proficiently at their grade level may be retained and given an extra year of enhanced instruction so that before promotion to the next grade, they can learn to read well. Because learning to read is so important and catching up so difficult to do, students must be proficient readers before they move on to more difficult materials.

Regardless of where they go to school, every child deserves the opportunity to reach his or her full potential and to fully embrace the American dream. Let’s work together: parents, teachers, administrators, and policy makers to ensure that Alaska implements the Read by 9 reading initiative so that all our children can read to learn and love to learn.

Jodi Taylor is an Alaska Policy Forum Board Member, a life-long Alaskan who attended public school, an entrepreneur at heart, and mother of five children.



  1. Jodi is right, however, I sat through most of an Anchorage School Board meeting in which the Board could not bring itself to require that students begin each week by singing the National Anthem and the Alaska Flag Song. If the Board cannot make very easy decisions correctly, how can we trust it to find ways to ensure that our public school students learn to read by age 9? Jodi, run for School Board, we need thinkers like you making the hard and easy decisions which affect our children.

  2. This is a mixed message; our Alaska schools are at the bottom of the nation academically so here is what parents must do to supplement the public education money pit.

    Thanks for nothing.

    We already know students who are successful come mostly from parents who were survivors of public education.

    What about demanding accountability for educators who work in 19th century education factories controlled by union thugs who are so bold they get elected to the ASD Board? Teachers are no longer required the be captives of NEA but most are too lazy to withdraw from the protection racket.

    More milk toast please…

  3. Great read ?? Thank you for bringing attention to this important matter. If we are looking for an amazing return on investment, teaching a child to read is one of the best!

  4. The education system in Alaska is broken. The “teachers” concentrate on MORE for themselves and LESS for educational opportunities for the students they are charged with educating. Their idea of “educating” seems to be indoctrination into the socialist, unionist, political nightmare that takes precedent over actually ensuring the students are proficient enough to advance academically. With earnings that exceed the average by 50-75%, plus benefits, the “teachers” still don’t earn enough to make them rich. I truly believe that’s what they want. To be rich at any cost to students, parents and all taxpayers. That is their mantra. Not education. We can thank the public employees/teachers unions and liberal greed for that. Now, pain is the name of the game. Pain of one sort or another is required to correct the fiscal abuses and mishandling of State, Borough and local funding for “education” and spending in general. If it is not done now, it will be much harder or impossible to fix at a later date. (put some arithmetic to that teachers). Words are cheap. Action speaks volumes.

  5. “We need to implement a system of instruction that places a heavier emphasis on making sure our children leave third grade with the ability to read.”
    What the hell’s that supposed to mean?
    Another gem: “Strategies, guided by science, focus on developing critical skills through the third grade so students can read with ease, understand the material, and are starting to think critically.”
    This genius seems clueless about what happened, why it happened, what’s necessary to fix the problem, and why Alaska’s education industry is not about to go along with any sort of fix that might interfere with getting money and indoctrinating children.
    Finally, the point (almost): “Let’s work together: parents, teachers, administrators, and policy makers to ensure that Alaska implements the Read by 9 reading initiative”.
    Translated, this means some crowd wants lots of money for their latest version of The Next Great Thing that’ll catapult Alaska’s education industry into stardom or at least deflect blame when the next evaluation again shows the industry’s dedication to illiteracy and indoctrination.

  6. I think the governor is on the right track, by cutting education the budget we can stop throwing money down the the drain on elementary school age kids that can’t seem to learn. At the rate this state is making bad investments it will be a wonder if we can still pay off the oil tax credits we still owe.

  7. I remember when members of the public “education” system went on strike on the KP some years ago. They were having their little tantrum parade around town and as I drove by the first big sign I saw ” IT’S FOR THE KIDS “. I thought .. Uh Huh. The second sign I saw screamed ” SHOW ME THE MONEY “. Ah Yes .. Fast forward to a few years ago when my wife and I were visiting family in Montana and we struck up conversation with a park ranger in a state park there. He perked up when he learned we were from Alaska. He said his fiancé is a teacher and was desperately trying to get a teaching job in AK because she could earn nearly twice what she makes in MT and could ensure and great retirement for them down the road. Hmm. My wife and I attended a small townhall on the KP shortly after our Montana trip and the sweet little white headed lady sitting next to us stood up to testify that she is a retired school teacher and her husband is a retired school principal. She stated that they were promised certain things in their contracts and that those promises must be kept. She said she was tired of hearing people complain about higher taxes … She didn’t like it when taxes increased on their rental properties either … but they did their jobs and yes they did get increases every year in their retirement income because that was in their negotiated contracts. She finished with ” You people are getting off easy … you are still a long way from paying 70% Taxes like they pay in Scandanavian countries “. Yep.


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