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Texas Fourth Graders Not Proficient Readers

By Shelley Kofler, KERA News

Dallas, TX – A national report released Tuesday places Texas in the bottom quarter of states for student reading proficiency.

The annual Kids Count report looks at incoming fourth graders. Students who don't read adequately by grade four tend to fall behind in other subjects and may be at a higher risk for dropping out.

The report says nearly three-fourths of Texas children were not proficient readers compared to 68 percent nationally. It found the gap is linked to poverty and begins at birth with low birth-weight children.

Texas Kids Count Director Frances Deviney says Texas has a higher than average number of tiny babies.

"Almost 8.2 percent of the babies born in Texas weigh less than five and a half pounds," said Deviney, who has a PhD in developmental psychology. "The reason that is a problem is because that is highly related to kids having developmental and learning problems later on. We've actually seen an uptick in low birth-weight babies in the past few years," she said.

Deviney says Texas also ranks dead last for families reading to their children. Some 26% of Texas families read to their preschoolers less than three days a week. That combined with lower enrollment in preschool or kindergarten results in many Texas children getting a slower start on their education.

Related Link: 2010 Kids Count Report on Reading Proficiency