Reading is the key to a child's future. First a child learns to read. Then that child reads to learn. This undeniable truth is why early childhood literacy and ensuring our children are proficient readers by the third grade is a priority for me and my administration.
No one should assume that children, without assistance, will learn to read. We learn to read by hearing conversations around us, and by reading with and seeing persons important to us use reading to gain valuable information.That is why it is so important for parents, grandparents, family and friends to read to children and for children to read with and continually interact with adults.
Home and school, neighborhood, church, siblings and relatives can all be effective partners in children learning to read.
Right now, in Nevada, we are not doing a sufficient job in helping our children learn to read. National tests show that Nevada children lag behind much of the nation in reading proficiency.
On the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), only 26 percent of Nevada's fourth-graders scored as proficient or advanced readers. For our state's black and Hispanic students, the results were even more troubling - only 16 and 19 percent of these children were proficient or advanced readers. Little ground was gained in later grades. Eighth-grade NAEP scores show the number of proficient and advanced readers among all students has stalled at 26 percent.
Research indicates that one in six children who are not reading proficiently in third grade do not graduate from high school on time, a rate four times greater than that for proficient readers. We cannot accept this fact. We must do better.
As our state rebuilds from the recession that has impacted our families, schools and businesses, having an educated and literate workforce is critical to filling the jobs that Nevada's economic development community is recruiting, expanding and starting up. We owe it to our children to have a good-paying job for them when they graduate from high school, college and/or university. But their hope for a job, for a future, starts with knowing how to read.
For this reason, I am elevating reading improvement for our school children as a major policy initiative of this administration. I have asked the state superintendent of public instruction and the entire Nevada Department of Education concentrate on ways in which Nevada can assist our children in learning to read and, thereafter, use their new skill to read to learn. Now I am asking all of state government and the general public to join us.
On Friday, Oct. 19, members of my executive cabinet, the first lady and I will visit 29 elementary schools throughout the state. We will read to first-, second- and third-grade classes. It is my hope that by taking this simple, unified step, we can bring new focus to the reading challenges of our young people. I hope that you, too, will spend time in a school or reading to a child you know.
It's a privilege to spend time in our schools, with the administrators, teachers and - most of all - the students who inspire me with their enthusiasm, fascination and desire to learn. Students must have every opportunity to learn to read, to have hope for the future and to realize any dream is attainable. We must renew the promise of opportunity Nevadans deserve. Reading is our first step together.
• Gov. Brian Sandoval can be reached through his website, gov.nv.gov.