Imagine this: by 2020, economists predict a shortfall of 5 million workers with postsecondary education and training.

As outlined in the report, “Why Reading Matters and What to Do About It”, the reason for the shortfall is linked to literacy: in national assessments, only 1 in 3 fourth and eighth grade students are proficient in reading. For children living in poverty, that ratio expands to 1 in 5 children proficient in reading. At the current rate of progress, it will take 30 years for half of fourth graders to be proficient in reading.

The Business Roundtable, a group of CEOs from across the United States, has turned their attention to how to increase literacy skills for all children. The Business Roundtable member CEOs manage companies that account for 25% of total US stock market capitalization. BR member, Jim Goodnight, CEO of SAS, led the effort to create the report, “Why Reading Matters and What to Do About It,” which is the focus of an upcoming webinar on March 7th in North Carolina.

Jim Goodnight reports that at SAS it can take up to two years to fill a high level position that requires a PhD.

In addition to Goodnight, CEOs from AT&T North Carolina, Ingersoll Rand, Bank of America, N.A., National Gypsum Company, Red Hat, Inc., and Medical Mutual Insurance Company of North Carolina are committing their resources where they make the most impact as stated in the Business Roundtable report:

The seeds are planted well before students arrive in kindergarten, as young children develop strong oral language skills, understand the value of print and some rules of printed text, learn to identify letters, and begin to gain phonemic awareness — the ability to recognize and work with smaller pieces of spoken words.

The webinar will explore ways that CEOs in NC are working to improve grade-level reading proficiency starting with the youngest children.

Want to learn more? The registration for the March 7th webinar is live, but space is limited. Go to this link to learn more about registration. If you would like to read the entire report, “Why Reading Matters and What to Do About It” click here.