So, once a child reaches middle school they no longer need help with reading, right? Wrong, according to the new and improved Striving Readers Act introduced this spring in the United States House and Senate.
The Striving Readers Act aims to boost academic achievement for students in middle school and high school through improved literacy. Right now, more than 70 percent of middle and high school students are reading below grade level. Those are staggering numbers and this puts them at great risk of dropping out, says Millie Davis from the National Council of Teachers of English. “This is not just an English problem because everything is based on literacy,” she says.
The act plans to stop the academic domino affect by creating better literacy programs to the tune of $200 million. The money would be given out in grants to states and school districts so they can plan, execute and test literacy techniques that work.
Not only does the bill call for more funding, but it puts an emphasis on local development of literacy programs rather than a one-size-fits-all model. This means teachers will get literacy training, parents will receive guidance on how to support their child’s literacy development, schools will hire literacy coaches and students will be evaluated several times a year to make sure they’re on track.
Why is teenage literacy getting all this attention now? Davis says there are two main reasons: First, educators are realizing that just because young students test well in reading, it doesn’t mean they will retain that knowledge in middle and high school. Davis says that’s because some students have difficulty reading content in subject areas other than Language Arts. “If they hit a wall and don’t progress, it just gets worse,” she says. The second reason the act is relevant now is due to the way industry has changed in the United States. “The literacy requirements for life are different now and are expected to be radically different in the future. America is an information place as opposed to an agricultural and manufacturing place,” Davis says.
And senators and congress members are taking note. The Striving Readers Act is gaining sponsors on both sides of the aisle and is now in the committee stage.
Though teenage literacy has not been a hot issue up to this point, experts say the tide needs to change. An inability to read takes a toll both on the child and on the country as a whole; we need readers for tomorrow’s workforce.
If you feel strongly about this bill and would like to contact your congressional members, go to www.congress.org and type in your zip code.
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