Improving early literacy has been a top priority for our team for a decade. Reading is arguably the most important and foundational skill to set students up for success throughout their education and life. Students learn to read so they can read to learn.
The Science of Reading embodies over 40 years of research from multiple fields of study that shines a light on key fundamental principles of reading instruction. The Reading to Ensure Academic Development (READ) Act, passed in 2012 and updated twice in the last few years, is grounded in this comprehensive body of research that identifies the most effective ways to teach reading and it also targets state funding to identify and support those students that need it the most. We also know from Chalkbeat reporting here, here, here and here that many Colorado districts are using curriculum not aligned to scientifically based approaches.
We believe the massive infusion of federal funding from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, presents an incredible opportunity for district leaders to invest in early literacy and update their curriculum to ensure teachers are equipped with materials backed by research about how students learn to read. The Colorado Department of Education has a list of curriculum aligned to scientifically based approaches.
We recently surveyed nearly 500 parents and educators across Colorado to understand how they want these federal stimulus dollars to be spent and they overwhelmingly wanted to see districts invest in mental health supports for students and early literacy improvements. We are pleased to see national efforts to address the pandemic-fueled rise in mental health needs, but we also believe that now is the time for district leaders to ensure educators are equipped up to date, research-based tools to support them in one of our education system’s most critical missions: teaching students to read.