Our children are not learning to read and we need a national commitment to save their future

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It is no coincidence that you can read and understand this sentence. Proper training has given you this fundamental skill. Yet today there are literally millions of children in our country who are behind in reading and, unfortunately, too many who cannot read at all. Your child could be one of them.

The most recent data provides the facts – and they are alarming. The National Assessment of Education Progress has released the latest 4th and 8th grade reading scores for US students and found that nearly 70 percent of these kids test “inadequate reading ability” and are in real trouble. Not only is that terrible, it’s heartbreaking, especially since most parents think their kids are fine.

How did this happen? In a recent podcast series, “Sold a Story: How Teaching Kids to Read Gont So Wrong,” journalist Emily Hanford shared stories of parents who found their children unable to read and the many challenges they faced in seeking help.


One parent, Corrine Adams, realized her son wasn’t learning to read in preschool when she helped him with his distance learning during the pandemic. Turning to Twitter to share her experience, Adams quickly learned that parents across the country had children who also failed to learn to read.

Senior Airman Paweena Vennum reads to children on March 23, 2022 at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.

Senior Airman Paweena Vennum reads to children on March 23, 2022 at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.
(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Natalie Powell)

This nationwide failure is real and could deprive our children and grandchildren of the opportunity to reach their full potential. For example, economist Eric Hanushek estimates that students affected by pandemic-related learning loss will earn 6-9% less income throughout their lives.

The way forward is effective policy. That’s why I founded the Foundation for Excellence in Education 15 years ago. Our organization recently hosted more than 1,200 attendees at its annual National Summit on Education in Salt Lake City. Those in attendance heard from both Hanford and Hanushek and many other speakers in policy-oriented discussions.

Central to our work is that each of these solutions starts with what is best for students. Therefore, I firmly believe that every child should have access to every educational option, similar to what was adopted in neighboring Arizona with the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts program.

But that is not everything. In Utah, leaders have already taken steps to implement common sense policies. Senate President Stuart Adams is an accountability advocate who rates schools by letter grades — so schools are held accountable. Utah Senator Ann Milner has championed some of the tenets of early literacy policies, including literacy coaches, screeners to quickly identify struggling children, and early intervention, monitoring, and support for students until they are on par with their peers. peers.

But in education, success is never final, reforms are never completed. More is possible. It starts with making sure all early literacy curricula are aligned with phonics and the science of reading and banning failed policies. States would be wise to follow directions from Arkansas and Louisiana that have banned “3-cueing” curricula. As the podcast series I referenced earlier reveals, this failed method literally teaches young children to guess words instead of working on how to pronounce the letters and actually learning how read.


I don’t expect parents to know this – they shouldn’t. But there is an industry that benefits from this curriculum, despite overwhelming evidence that it harms a child’s reading skills.

It’s time to put students first and end what doesn’t work for kids.

But there is too much at stake – we all have a part to play in helping every child grow up. There are things parents, guardians, grandparents, and any trusted adult in a child’s life can do to help students recover lost learning.


Invest just 20 minutes each day reading with a child. And research has shown that an extra 30 minutes a week of extra math work helps students achieve educational gains.

As a national problem, it requires a national effort. It requires a national commitment to excellent education for every child. I know we have it in our capacity as Americans to help every child close these gaps and ensure that every child has access to their God-given potential for a meaningful life.


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