Here in Illinois, we have an urgent literacy crisis. There is a solution: evidence-based literacy instruction.
For Illinois, the hard truth is that about 40% of our students read below a ‘basic’ level. It starts early: students who do not read well by the end of third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school and six times more likely to drop out of high school if they are from a low-income family. Aside from the academic consequences, struggling readers are also far more likely to end up in the criminal justice system: over 60% of prison inmates and 85% of juveniles in the court system are struggling readers.
This is not a problem at the individual level or classroom level–this is a systemic problem. Its roots are at the top, with flawed curriculum being heavily marketed and selected at the district level.
Most states across the country have taken steps to help struggling readers, from improving educator preparation programs, to requiring evidence-based literacy curriculum and screenings, to funding literacy coaches and professional development in evidence-based instruction practices.
To improve reading outcomes, we need to improve reading instruction in the classroom. Educators across the state support our children’s literacy, but systemic failures in teacher education programs and curriculum development companies have deprived teachers of the knowledge, professional development, and tools that enable them to teach evidence-based literacy instruction.
Dedicated advocates — parents, teachers, school psychologists, legal advocates, civil rights activists, and school administrators — have seen the impact of inadequate early literacy instruction and are working to change it. This diverse group of individuals and organizations want to improve public policy and funding so that all students have access to evidence-based literacy instruction and teachers have the support and preparation they deserve. The Illinois Early Literacy Coalition provides an opportunity for everyday people to network with other literacy advocates and collaborate to improve literacy policy.
Stand and the Coalition support the Literacy & Justice for All legislative package to fix the state’s literacy crisis and help ensure students have equitable access to evidence-based literacy instruction and educators get the support and professional development opportunities they deserve.