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Literacy in America

Supporting Parents to Support Young Readers

Over 300 American communities agree on one thing: we need more children to be reading proficient by the end of the third grade.

According to research, reading proficiency by the end of the third grade enables students to shift from learning to read to reading to learn. They can, then, master more complex subject matter starting in the fourth grade. Most students who fail to reach this milestone falter in later grades and often drop out before earning a high school diploma.

However, two-thirds of U.S. fourth graders are not proficient readers, according to national reading assessment data. Worse, more than 4 out of 5 students from economically challenged neighborhoods are at risk of missing this milestone.

Amid the many ways to tackle this problem, one is sometimes overlooked: parents. Parents can close the gaps in a child’s healthy development, readiness for school, school attendance, summer learning, and grade-level reading proficiency.

The role of parents

Beginning with their role as the child’s first teacher, parents can nurture the love of learning and a natural curiosity for the world.

Parents and families should observe, guide, promote, and participate in the everyday learning of their children at home, school, and in their communities. 

They can form connections with peers and mentors in social networks and community organizations that can enhance their educational, communal, and social wellbeing.  These collaborative opportunities will provide other experiences that support their parenting, careers, and life goals.

Parents can also enhance their children’s learning experience in their homes by participating in shared book-reading which helps to avoid the “word gap” between children from underserved neighborhoods and more affluent ones.

Parents and families should be empowered as co-creators to participate in leadership development, decision-making, and program-policy development.

Especially during a time of virtual learning, it’s important for families to collaborate with educators to establish a plan for daily attendance and academic success. We must ensure all families have access to the necessary resources, including technology, to support their children’s learning. 

None of this is easy. But there are over 5,000 local organizations and over 500 state and local funders right now working together to support parents. Family engagement is the key component to helping more students read at grade level, especially during this period of virtual learning.

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