West Virginia is one of the leading states when it comes to developing children’s literacy skills, according to a recent study by New America’s Education Policy Program.

“We know that early literacy doesn’t begin when we get the children in universal Pre-K, it doesn’t begin in Kindergarten, it begins at birth,” said Monica DellaMea, executive director of the Office of Early Learning.

Developing children’s reading skills from the start is one of the reasons West Virginia was one of five top states, who are ensuring that children are reading at grade level by the third grade.

The West Virginia Department of Education takes a three part approach to developing childhood literacy, which includes school readiness, attendance, and out of school programs.

“Often times they lose ground during the summer, but if they have access to high quality programs where reading is a focus, then they can make up lost ground and even excel during those times,” DellaMea said.

Another part of developing literacy skills is reading to your children, and it’s never too early to start.

Reading at grade level has long term effects for a child’s future, including improving graduation rate and behavior.

“You know third grade, it seems like it’s just this magical year, but the research has proven that it truly is a year that is indicative of what may or may not happen later on,” said DellaMea.