Reading has always been one of my favorite pastimes. Today, most of my reading goes home with me in binders of issues and ideas for our state, information on the next day's meetings and new legislation. But whenever I get the chance, I love to sit down with a good book and expand my understanding of the world around me.
Reading is critical for people of all ages, especially our youngest learners. That's why my office and the Arkansas Department of Education are spearheading an effort to foster a culture of reading across the state. The Reading Initiative for Student Excellence -- or RISE Arkansas, for short -- is a bold, new campaign promoting literacy and highlighting the importance of reading proficiency for student success.
The Department of Education is hard at work organizing events to support the goals of RISE Arkansas. They are kicking-off a social media campaign, hosting their Second Annual Reading Conference for educators, and continuing their work with community partners.
Additionally, the department has created the RISE Academy to improve literacy training for Arkansas teachers and has put books into the hands of students and schools. Our goal is to work with community education partners to cultivate vibrant reading communities, not just in schools, but wherever possible, including at home and in libraries across the state.
Student success may be measured in the classroom, but it starts at home. Author and poet Maya Angelou once said, "Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him." Studies show that when a student has age-appropriate books available to them in the home, they are more likely to experience greater academic success, regardless of their parents' education level.
According to our National Assessment of Educational Progress test scores, only 31 percent of Arkansas's fourth grade students were proficient in reading in 2015. The proficiency scores for eighth grade students were even lower at 27 percent. That same year, under 40 percent of Arkansas's graduating seniors met reading readiness benchmarks on the ACT. These numbers demonstrate the importance of establishing a culture of reading that will elevate student success in the classroom and open our children's eyes to new horizons. Let's all continue working together and RISE to the occasion.
As governor, I encourage you to explore ways that you can promote reading in your communities by organizing a book drive, volunteering to read to students or donating books to local libraries. These actions might seem small, but they can go a long way.