Lately, a lot of the conversation in the higher ed world has been centered on the topic of increasing enrollment. After all, what’s an institution of higher learning without the students to teach?

Through image and perception studies, a student recruitment assessmentcompetitive positioningrecruitment planning, and more, you can learn new strategies and set new goals to help you increase your school’s applicant pool.

But there’s a way to bolster college and university enrollment across the board on a much more basic level, and this week is dedicated to activities all about it.

March 3, 2014, is the National Education Association’s (NEA) Read Across America Day, which kicks off a week’s worth of events across the nation all centered on sharing a love of reading. Through these activities, the NEA works to build a nation of readers who harbor a passion for the written word and are motivated to maintain a lifelong enthusiasm for reading and learning.

In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, a division of the U.S. Department of Education, children who are exposed to reading at home succeed at much higher rates than children who aren’t. The Educational Testing Service found that reading proficiency increases as the types of reading materials found in the homes rises. And what’s perhaps the most important for those of us working in higher education, the Annie E. Casey Foundation discovered that students who don’t read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma when compared to proficient readers.

No high school diploma, no college enrollment.

Some of my best memories as a child are of when my parents would sit down and read with me. It launched a love of books and literature that continued through high school, inspired my English lit. major in college, and has led to a book collection currently overtaking my home office. I’m sure it was also, in no small part, influential in my desire to become a writer and surround myself every day with words and the art of composition.

It makes me wonder if maybe the most fundamental way to increase college enrollment is simply to increase the number of kids who want to go to college. And one way to do that is through early childhood literacy.

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