The Bad News
'The 'Matthew Effect' is a term coined by
Keith Stanovich, a psychologist who has done extensive research on reading
and language disabilities. Because some IQ sub-tests measure information learned
from reading, poor readers will score lower on these sub-tests. Over years,
the "gap" between poor readers and good readers grows. The 'Matthew
Effect' refers to the idea that in reading (as in other areas of life), the
rich get richer and the poor
get poorer (click to see diagrams). When children fail at early
reading and writing, they begin to dislike reading. They read less than their
classmates who are stronger readers. As a consequence, they do not gain vocabulary,
background knowledge, and information about how reading material is structured.
In short, the word-rich get richer, while the word-poor get poorer."
"About 10 million children have difficulties learning to read. From 10 to 15 percent eventually drop out of high school; only 2 percent complete a four-year college program. Surveys of adolescents and young adults with criminal records show that about half have reading difficulties. Similarly, about half of youths with a history of substance abuse have reading problems." ("Why Children Succeed or Fail at Reading")
"Reading problems occur with equal frequency in boys and girls; schools identify 4 times as many boys, largely on the basis of behavioral, not learning, characteristics. ("A Scientific Approach to Reading Instruction")
"Some 40% of the (Pittsburgh) region's school children still read below grade level.... in southwestern Pennsylvania, the Education Policy and Issues Center calculates that 20%...of 5th graders have reading skills so poor that they have no hope of succeeding in school.... In our region, 20% equates to 5,000 children. (Maxwell King, Executive Director, Heinz Edowments, 11/1/00, Pittsburgh Post Gazette) All Children Must be Able to Read.
"Of all children identified as learning disabled, 80% are primarily impaired in reading; 90% of these children have problems with decoding skills." ("A Scientific Approach to Reading Instruction")
"In school lore, second grade is broadly viewed as the children's last chance. Those who are not on track by third grade have little chance of ever catching up. Snow, et. al., "Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children (Washington, DC: National Research Council/Academy Press, 1998), 212.
in grades 1 and 2, 82% can be brought up to normal classrrom level;
in grade 3, 46% can be brought up to normal classroom level;
in grades 5 - 7, 10-15% can be brought up to normal classroom level.
"NICHD studies show that 74% of children who are poor readers in 3rd grade remain poor readers 9th grade. ("A Scientific Approach to Reading Instruction")
Literacy - Then and Now. "If schools were educating today's young people the illiteracy rate would be decreasing as the older generation passed from the scene. To the contrary, at least one estimate is that the number of illiterate Americans' is growing as much as 2,500,000 a year". David W. Kirkpatrick
"It's not globalization or immigration or computers per se that widen inequality. It's the skills gap. Boosting educational at the bottom is more promising than trying to reorganize the global economy." "The Biggest Issue", David Brooks, New York Times, 7/29/08)
"Nationally, 25% of all adults are functionally illiterate," Louisa
Moats, "When Older Students