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Business Roundtable is an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies working to promote a thriving economy and expanded opportunity for all Americans through sound public policy.

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A CEO Action Plan to Support Improved U.S. Literacy Rates

U.S. companies are experiencing a very real “skills gap”—one that will become even more acute as the economy continues to grow, strengthen and add jobs over the next 15 years.

A focus on improving third grade reading proficiency offers a uniquely powerful lever to address many aspects of the skills gap over the long term. Research consistently shows that reading itself is one of the most commonly and intensively used skills among all types of jobs across the entire U.S. economy, including jobs that require no education or training beyond high school. In fact, the economic returns from reading proficiently are higher in the United States than in nearly every other developed country.

The United States has made some progress in improving reading, but the gains are too small and the pace too slow.  To address this critical problem and make sure all students develop the kind of reading proficiency necessary in today’s economy, state leaders should consider a six-step policy agenda to create an aligned, coherent system of effective literacy instruction and support for their youngest students.


Policy Agenda

Six Steps to Ensure Reading Proficiency by Third Grade

Each state is in a different place in implementing policies to address reading and literacy, and each state’s unique context will dictate the specific nature and timing of additional policy steps. Business Roundtable offers this policy blueprint in the hopes that it can inform important ongoing policy conversations at the state level.

  1. Expand Access to High-Quality Pre-K Learning Opportunities
  2. Offer High-Quality Full-Day Kindergarten that Ensures a Successful Transition to Elementary School
  3. Use Student Assessments and Data Systems to Track Student Progress
  4. Equip Educators in Pre-K-Grade 3 to Help Students Become Strong Readers
  5. Require Systematic Interventions for Struggling Readers in Grades K-3
  6. Coordinate Governance of Pre-K and Grades K-3 to Promote Efficiency and Maximize Impact

How CEOs Can Play a Powerful Role

In addition to offering a state policy blueprint, Why Reading Matters and What to Do About It offers nine powerful ways CEOs can make a difference in their state to promote reading. Start now by committing your company using the form below. 
CEO Action

"High-quality pre-K lays the foundation for third grade reading proficiency."

Dr. Jim Goodnight, CEO of SAS

30 years

At current the rate of progress, it will take 30 years before half of American 4th graders read proficiently
CEO Action

"Access to quality education at an early age is foundational for a child's success throughout life."

Lynn J. Good, Chairman, President & CEO of Duke Energy Corporation


Increasing literacy scores is attributed to wage increases of up to 27%
CEO Action

"There can be no STEM-based advances without the creative thinking reading ignites."

Mike Gregoire, CEO of CA Technologies


By 2020, 65% of all U.S. jobs will require postsecondary education and training beyond high school
CEO Action

"It's critical that we provide educators with the training and guidance they need to help students become strong readers."

Harold L. Yoh, III, Chairman & CEO of Day & Zimmermann


of BRT CEOs rate reading and writing as very important for their current job openings
CEO Action

"There are clear benefits to meeting students where they are."

Terry J. Lundgren, Chairman & CEO of Macy's Inc.


of U.S. millennials failed to demonstrate proficient literacy in 2015
CEO Action

"Public and private sectors must work together."

Dr. Jim Goodnight, CEO of SAS

Only 1 in 3

American students currently demonstrate reading proficiency in 4th and 8th grades

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