HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF ) - More than 15 percent of third grade students in Horry County tested below state reading standards in 2012, according to www.kidscount.org.
Statewide, the number grows to nearly 20 percent of kids below the state standard. Callee Boulware is the Executive Director of Reach out and Read Carolina's, a program that partners with several medical offices in Horry County and sends children home with a book after each visit to the doctors.
The doctors are trained in literacy guidance, and talk to parents about why early literacy is crucial for their child's development.
Boulware says some kids in Horry County, like other counties in South Carolina, suffer from high levels of poverty. Along with that, many parents are not as engaged as they should be. She says it is crucial for parents to interact with their children in the early years as their minds begin to develop.
Many kids simply don't have access to books. In fact, 88 percent of kids who are behind in first grade will still be behind in fourth grade, which further proves that early development is vital.
"We talk a lot about reading successfully by the end of the third grade, and the reason that's so critical is prior to third grade, children are learning to read. After third grade, children are reading to learn," Boulware says.
"And so, if children are not at a level of proficiency by the end of the third grade, it really starts to become acute in that they fall behind in their other subjects. They can't keep up in history or in Science or in something else because they can't understand the text presented to them."
When kids don't develop their reading levels at an early age, it continues to cause problems as they fall behind. Thirty percent of the population in Horry County is unable to read the paper, prescriptions, or fill out forms.
"Lower literacy rates are correlated with all kinds of negative outcomes for students; truancy, drop out rates, substance abuse, all kinds of things that we don't want to be hap penning to students down the line."
If kids grow up to be illiterate, it only goes downhill from there. "It is very difficult down the line it is very difficult to retain employment, it's very difficult to complete forms and things that you need to do for your normal adult life if you're not strong in reading."
If you want to know more about the Reach Out and Read program, and how to get your child involved, visit the website here: http://www.reachoutandreadsc.org/.
To learn more about National Reading Day, visit the website here: http://national-reading-day.org/.
If you'd like to find online interactive books that you can read with your child as they begin to learn, go to http://read.gov/kids/
For adults who want to improve literacy, visit http://literacyhc.org/basic-literacy-program for ways to receive free tutoring and help.