NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

United States Ranks Ninth in Reading

April 9, 2003

Fourth graders in Sweden, the Netherlands and England were the top performers in reading literacy among 35 countries and approximately 150,000 students surveyed, according to a study by the Progress in International Reading literacy Study (PIRLS).

Following the top three finishers were Bulgaria, Latvia, Canada, Lithuania, Hungary, the United States and Italy rounding out the top 10 countries. Sweden and England had the highest achievement in reading for literary purposes; in reading for informational purposes, Sweden, the Netherlands and Bulgaria were the top performers.

Additionally, PIRLS collected extensive information about home, school and national influences on how well students learn to read and queried parents and caregivers about their children's early literacy activities.

Among the key findings:

  • In all countries, fourth-grade girls had significantly higher average achievement than boys.
  • According to principals in each country, reading was emphasized more than any other area of the primary-school curriculum.
  • On average internationally, two-thirds of fourth-grade students (66 percent) reported reading silently on their own daily and a further 27 percent at least weekly.
  • More girls (70 percent) than boys (55 percent) reported reading stories or novels weekly, while comparable percentages of girls (62 percent) and boys (59 percent) read weekly for information.

Source: Progress in International Reading Literacy Study 2001, April 8, 2003, PIRLS.


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