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      Nearly 70 percent of AR 4th graders are not reading at proficient level

      LITTLE ROCK (KATV)--Nearly70 percent of fourth graders in Arkansas are reading below the national level, that'saccording to a new study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

      The ArkansasAdvocates for Children and Families said, reading proficiently by the fourthgrade is a key predictor of a student's future educational and economicsuccess.

      The ArkansasCampaign for Grade-Level Reading hopes that by 2020, all Arkansas children willread at grade level by the third grade.

      Bythe end of third grade, experts said a student's reading ability predicts theirschool success and high school graduation.

      Nearly7 out of 10 Arkansas fourth graders do not read at proficient level accordingto a new study, which has experts worried for the future generation.

      "We're two percentage points off the U.S.average, which is 66 percent compared to our 68 percent, so while we're alittle lower than the national average, it's still not a good number for eithernationally or for Arkansas," said AR Advocates for Children and Families'Director of Education Policy and Finance, Jerri Derlikowski.

      Derlikowski adds, there's an achievement gapbetween students with families with higher incomes and those with lowerincomes. 54percent of higher-income 4th graders are not at reading level, while 78 percentof low-income 4th graders are not. Thegap between the two groups has increased from 19 percent to 24 percent in thelast ten years.

      "Weknow that low income children that higher income kids have during the summerand for after school activities that are enrichment for those kids," saidDerlikowski.

      The ArkansasAdvocates for Children and Families sites that Pre-K is crucial to advancingreading skills. WhileArkansas has done a good job for making Pre-K available, there's a waiting listnow, because the state has not increased Pre-K funding in six years.