What makes this crisis so serious is that reading enables other achievements among children; reading is, moreover, a proxy for the overall health of the school system. A child who can read well in a language class can also understand texts in a science or economics class. A child who can understand what she reads is able to make connections between real and abstract things, something essential for advanced learning.
A child with reading competency is more confident in her overall intellectual abilities. A child who reads well often speaks well.
When an overwhelming majority of our children cannot read deeply in Grade 4, the knock-on effects for later learning can be very serious for the individual child, for schools and ultimately for society.
The government's response to this abysmal state of education is not to raise the education standard but to lower it; politics demands that the numbers passing look good in the short term regardless of the long-term consequences for families and for the economy.
Just last week, a teacher I know well called to tell me that they had been instructed to allow children in English First Language to pass with 30% (instead of 40%) and that children who fell a few points short of the low passing mark should be progressed anyway.