I am currently the reading interventionist at a rural Title I school in Colorado. My master’s degree is in teaching with a focus on reading intervention. My master’s thesis explored the perceptions of access to information needed by parents of SPED students in order to successfully advocate for those students in one of the largest school districts in Colorado Springs. It came as no surprise that most parents were completely lost or marginalized in a system that they had entrusted their students with. As a parent of a dyslexic child, I knew these struggles; I also had many privileges on my side: English as a first language, transportation, education, funds with which to have my child assessed. If I was completely lost with so many resources, what must it be like for a parent without just one of them?
I share this story because people are entrusting us, as educators, to take care of their children’s educational needs. They shouldn’t have to navigate the system to ensure their child gets appropriate interventions. Parents of struggling readers, no matter their privileges, should be able to rest confidently in the knowledge that we have the skills and resources to effectively help their children with reading. The READ Act was intended to address achievement gaps in reading by implementing accountability measures and suggesting programs informed by the science of reading. Why then, by 2019, did we see no growth in our readers? The answer lay in the implementation: it is not enough to suggest or even require that schools implement reading programs informed by the science of reading. Most teacher prep programs do not teach pre-service teachers how to teach reading. Many veteran teachers have continued to use methods discredited by brain research. Teachers must be instructed in the science of reading, the way the brain facilitates the skill of reading, and the practices that inform solid reading instruction. It is not a one-day workshop’s worth of information. This is why the 45-hour science of reading requirement for Colorado teachers is an important step.
I understand that this requirement asks for precious time that is already in short supply for most teachers. We need to remember, however, that these reading struggles will still be with us when we all return to the classroom someday, and that those children who struggle the most will be relying on us more than ever to deliver instruction that is effective and backed by science. We cannot let our guard down now. We have navigated teaching during a pandemic; we can hold on for 45 hours of reading science. A successful READ Act, and most importantly our students’ success, depends on us.
Brooke is the reading interventionist at Calhan Elementary School in Calhan, CO. She is committed to social justice and liberation in our schools and pedagogy, and is currently pursuing a PhD in educational leadership and policy at the University of Denver. She lives outside of Colorado Springs with her partner and children.