The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) estimates that more than 250 million school children throughout the world cannot read. A Need To Invest In Getting More Children To Read.
This is unfortunate because literacy has enormous benefits – both for the individual and society. Higher literacy rates are associated with healthier populations, less crime, greater economic growth, and higher employment rates. For a person, literacy is a foundational skill required to acquire advanced skills. These, in turn, confer higher wages and more employment across labour markets .
Over the past decade, there has been growing evidence that shows that interventions for getting young children to read work. The mostly successful pilots should be brought to scale in all countries where early grade reading is an issue. To increase awareness of the need to do so, a global early skills assessment that tests reading abilities should be created and widely disseminated, serving as a global benchmark.
In order to address the high rates of child illiteracy that pervade in developing countries, we believe that education funding should be shifted towards early primary education reading initiatives.
In order to attain high literacy rates, children should be taught in the first few years of school. Cognitive research shows that the optimal time to learn to read is the earlier grades. Shockingly, PISA test scores show that about half of the students that are finishing their primary education in middle-income countries are unable to comprehend the main message of basic texts. One way to address the illiteracy pandemic is through early grade reading interventions. Such interventions are typically geared towards first through third years of primary education and are based on teacher training that improves the ability to teach literacy (for example, evidence-based, context-appropriate literacy curricula; simplified instructional content; follow-up coaching and support for teachers; supplementary instructional and reading materials; training and tools for student assessment).
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Since people cannot take advantage of the high returns to secondary and tertiary education if they do not learn to read at a young age, education investments should be shifted heavily towards primary school. If there is a high rate of child illiteracy within a given country, public investment should prioritize primary education, especially results based on achieving early grade reading. Innovative financing approaches can be used to expand upper secondary and university education.
Adapted from World Bank Blogs