WDEL's Amy Cherry reports.
The KIDS COUNT report finds 62 percent of fourth graders in Delaware aren't reading at their grade level.
"That's an improvement from 2003, when it was 57-percent," says Laura Speer, associate director for Policy Advocacy Reform with the Casey Foundation.
The report also finds socio-economic status playing a major role in the reading gaps.
"About 75-percent of lower income kids in Delaware are not reading proficiently in fourth grade compared to 48 percent of higher income kids," Speer says.
She says it's an issue that can't be solved by schools alone. She says many kids are missing out on early childhood interventions that can make a big difference.
"It's very important that kids have kind of a strong foundation not only in some of their cognitive development, but in their health, in their social skills because that will help them cope with kind of being in the school environment and learning as well as their emotional skills which will help them regulate themselves in class," says Speer.
Speer points to parents, saying they must be their child's first teachers. She also notes one issue that's often overlooked.
"For many kids, it's a struggle to even be in the school chair, that being chronically absent is a major hindrance to learning," she says.
She says students must also maintain their learning over the summer months.
"This is something that is very important for low income kids because they often don't have the same kind of access to educationally-enriching activities that high income kids do in the summer," says Speer.
The report finds all but six states saw improvements. States that fared the worst are New Mexico and Mississippi while Massachusetts came out on top.
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