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Indiana’s former governor has stated that determining the number of new prisons to build is based, in part, on the number of second graders not reading at second-grade level.
In California they plan how many jail cells they will build in the future by how many children are not reading on grade level by third grade.
“Based on this year’s fourth-grade reading scores,” observes Paul Schwartz, a Coalition principal in residence at the U. S. Department of Education, “California is already planning the number of new prison cells it will need in the next century.”
David Boulton: We were interviewing Lesley Morrow, the Past-President of the International Reading Association, and she made a statement which flabbergasted me. She said this was a fact: that there are some states that determine how many prison cells to build based on reading scores.
Dr. Grover (Russ) Whitehurst: Yes. Again, the predictability of reading for life success is so strong, that if you look at the proportion of middle schoolers who are not at the basic level, who are really behind in reading, it is a very strong predictor of problems with the law and the need for jails down the line.
Literacy for societies, literacy for states, literacy for individuals is a powerful determinate of success. The opposite of success is failure and clearly, being in jail is a sign of failure.
People who don’t read well have trouble earning a living. It becomes attractive to, in some cases the only alternative in terms of gaining funds, to violate the law and steal, to do things that get you in trouble. Few options in some cases other than to pursue that life. Of course reading opens doors.