Reading is the foundational skill for all school-based learning, and reading by the end of third grade is a crucial milestone. Through third grade, most students are learning to read. Beginning in fourth grade, students begin reading to learn. Therefore, students who are not reading at grade level by third grade begin having difficulty understanding the written material that is a big part of their education in the grades that follow. Research shows a strong connection between a student’s third grade reading ability and how well they perform on ninth grade coursework, whether or not they graduate high school, and if they go on to attend college.

One of Expect More Arizona’s top priorities is to support early literacy policies and programs and to advocate for new funding for strategies such as full-day kindergarten, increased instructional time, and opportunities for early intervention and screenings.

Stakeholders from across the state agree that early literacy skills are critical to the future success of our students and the strength of our communities. Read their comments below.

“Access to quality early literacy programming provides children the foundation that they need for long-term, lifelong success and is critical to the sustainable success of neighborhoods and communities.” — Coral Evans, Mayor, City of Flagstaff


“Reading proficiency is the currency of school success. If a child or teen leaves the third grade struggling to read, they are impoverished in everything from following rules in the student handbook to taking standardized tests. Decades of research as well as my personal experience with children in schools and public libraries points to the obvious: the time to fill a child’s ‘bank’ of reading readiness and ensure they have the currency for success in school is birth to age five. It is critical that Arizonans continue to fund efforts to provide parent education and quality early education if we expect our children to walk through the doors of a kindergarten classroom with the reading readiness they need to succeed.” — Martha Baden, Head of Public Services, Prescott Public Library

“As a mom, it has always been part of our family’s routine to spend time reading together. Research has shown that children who were read to at least three times a week by a family member were almost twice as likely to score in the top 25 percent in reading compared to children who were read to less than three times a week. So many children are showing up to their kindergarten classrooms unprepared for school, and if this little bit of time every day can make a difference in my children’s future academic success and confidence, I am all in!” —  Kristi Yamaguchi

The Kristi Yamaguchi Always Dream Foundation is an organization founded to inspire underserved children to reach for their dreams through innovative reading programs and by advancing the cause of early childhood literacy. As an accomplished children’s book author, athlete and mom, Kristi’s passion for reading ignited the Foundation’s commitment to early childhood literacy.


“It is critical to invest in early childhood literacy because it is the foundation for a lifetime of success!” — Dr. Lupita Ley Hightower, Superintendent/Treasure Hunter, Tolleson Elementary School District


“As a former teacher of the year, I directly saw the importance of early literacy skills. Students with strong early literacy skills are able transfer those skills to enhance: social intelligence, executive function skills, have a love for learning and are role models for their classmates. We must start early to build healthy confidant brains equaling later success in collage and career. Our local, state and national economies are dependent upon it. It’s everybody’s issue!” — Rudy J. Ortiz, First Things First,Yuma Regional Director


“Strong reading skills form the basis for learning in all subjects throughout childhood. Children who are without many early literacy experiences, like listening to books being read aloud or being talked to, typically start school lacking early literacy skills. Through raising awareness about the importance of early education parents, caregivers, families and entire communities can be more knowledgeable and involved in ensuring 3rd grade reading success.” — Madeleine Coil, City of Yuma

“Early literacy is such an important foundation for all children. Every year my office partners with the Mexican Consulate in Tucson to host a bilingual literacy fair on the south side of Tucson with the goal of ensuring that young people retain and prioritize their dual language reading skills. Emphasizing the cultural, social, and developmental benefits of bilingual literacy helps young people celebrate their history and prepare them for a bright and successful future.” — Vice Mayor Regina Romero, City of Tucson

“Language acquisition is natural as children learn to vocalize and communicate with the world of people around them. Reading is a learned behavior that can grow very naturally as a form of learned communication. When children have enough stimulus, exposure and interaction with language acquisition and reading it can progress in steady increments across time.

Every age is important from Early Childhood (Preschool) to Kinder, 1st, 2nd, 3rd grades and beyond. We set progress markers along the way. These expectations need to be realistic and appropriate, but by measuring, and intervening when needed, the growth can be encouraged before becoming too far below expectations. Up until 2nd grade children are learning to read, but from about 3rd grade they begin reading to learn. Because of this change, 3rd grade is a good time to be sure reading is proficient, and take whatever additional action necessary to equip learners before they move past this important developmental change.” — Laura Noel, Ed.D., Superintendent, Somerton School District #11

“When one of my students had an especially good session reading, he walked out of the room with me with a real happy skip in in steps. I said ‘My goodness, you are happy today!’ He replied, ‘Yes, I know what I want to do when I grow up. I want to work with books and I want to teach little kids to read just like you do!’

My 2nd graders all try hard and really focus for the 1/2 hour that I spend with them twice a week. It is such fun watching them ‘own’ a difficult word and feeling more confident each day. We make giant strides most days with our students and know that they are feeling so much better about themselves because they can see their progress too. We love what we are doing because we see real progress – one student at a time! It’s the best kind of grand parenting!” — Shirley Talley, Experience Matters volunteer, Tuscano Elementary School

“Parents, you are enough. Your time is enough. There are so many books out there and so many websites that will give you conflicting advice on how to raise your child. But what your child needs is you! Read to your child. Talk to your child. Point out even the most ordinary things and describe them in colorful detail. Help your child build immense vocabularies. Even if it’s just for 20 minutes a day, give your child your attention and your time. Our children will become adults in a technology driven world and will face so many more challenges than we did at their age. Knowing how to read, and how to read well, will help your child succeed in all disciples of education. Doing a science experiment or solving a mathematical word problem are difficult when you are unable to read the page. Our children are amazing little creatures and anything that we can do to help them succeed, not just in school, but in their lives is worth 20 minutes a day.” — Chandra Jackson, Youth Librarian, Mohave County Library-Bullhead City