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Up until third grade, students generally work on mastering basic reading skills. But after third grade, reading is needed to build skills and content knowledge in subjects like history or science. That’s why third grade is often referred to as the pivotal year when students shift from learning to read to reading to learn.

This helps explain why 38 states have passed laws relating to third-grade reading proficiency. The laws are designed to ensure that students have the foundational reading skills needed to enter fourth grade, when the focus of the curriculum changes significantly.

Third-grade reading laws are leading many states to expand the use of early assessment, which provides professionals with tools to better understand and respond when a child is struggling to learn. Expanding early identification of reading challenges can help schools identify and address learning and attention issues before students fall far behind.

Most third-grade reading laws provide for frequent monitoring and intensive interventions to help students reach reading proficiency standards. Twenty-three states now require students to repeat third grade if they are not reading proficiently, but nearly all of these states allow for some exemptions.