Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Janet Porter, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, looks at a few numbers with growing concern. In an op-ed column in the Boston Business Journal, she notes that the state’s population is aging, with median age rising from 36.5 in 2000 to 39.1 in 2010. In that same period, the number of young children under age 9 — the commonwealth’s future workforce – declined by 9% to roughly 753,000.

“These numbers tell me Massachusetts will have trouble maintaining the pipeline of skilled, well-educated workers our innovation-based economy needs,” she writes in “Making the grade with literacy.“ As a health care provider, I know an aging population will also place increasing demands on this sector of the economy. We all have a huge stake in the healthy development and effective education of young children. We do not have a child to spare.”

Porter, who chairs the board of Raising a Reader Massachusetts, looks to high-quality early education and language and literacy development as critical to the commonwealth’s economic future. “That is why I support An Act Relative to Third Grade Reading Proficiency, now pending on Beacon Hill,” she writes. She also notes that state spending on early education and care has declined in recent years.

“If we are to provide our children with the strong start they deserve,” Porter writes, “we must increase investments in high-quality early childhood education and focus state attention on preparing children, from birth, to become strong readers.”