We are not “crazy” moms, but well-intentioned parents with formal, academic training in teaching and English language studies. -Jamie Lynch and Kate Mayer
Everyone Reads T/E is a parent founded advocacy group in Pennsylvania with one single mission that is focused on reading instruction.
The group founders are mothers whose professional and academic training coupled with their personal experiences with their own children have turned them into passionate advocates. They come armed with experience, research, data and an indomitable commitment to literacy and a science based approach to teaching reading. They are working to bring about change in the Tredyffrin/Easttown school district in Pennsylvania but their work serves as a useful template—and perhaps inspiration—to the parents all over the country who are fighting the very same battle.
Who Are They?
We hear a lot from educators, activists, and former secretaries of education about the importance of prioritizing social justice and equity in our schools—and in the abstract, most of us can say “amen to that”. But what these moms are getting right—and many of the loudest and most sought after voices in education are ignoring—is that teaching children to read in a scientifically proven way is the epitome of social justice. In fact, it is exactly what is needed if we are to get serious about dismantling what is commonly referred to by education advocates as the “school-to-prison-pipeline.“ 70 percent of state prison inmates wouldn’t be illiterate or only partially literate if learning to read wasn’t closely correlated with not ending up in jail. It is not the only predictive factor, obviously, but it is the one for which our educational system—and teacher preparation programs and local districts— bear the most direct responsibility.
The fact that 75 percent of Black boys in California do not meet reading standards tells us this. The fact that two thirds of students in Philadelphia don’t read at grade level tells us this. The astronomical illiteracy rates in juvenile detention centers and state prisons tell us this. And parents of means in even the “best” school districts, who are spending many thousands of dollars a year on private reading instruction for their children, tell us this too. The pivotal question is are we ready and willing to be honest about our literacy crisis and then mobilize to demand change for all children?
It will not be an easy fight. The Everyone Reads T/E moms recently sent an open letter about reading instruction to the teachers in their district and suffice it to say, the administration did not like it. A week later, they sent another letter to their school board. The response has predictably been one of resistance and even personal insults from those in power but a quick look at the testimonials from parents the group has helped is proof that they are empowering parents with information that should be coming from their child’s school.
We are in a moment that feels ripe for progress on the issue of reading instruction. Emily Hanford’s report “Hard Words: Why Aren’t Kids Being Taught to Read?” has catalyzed a seemingly national conversation and provided cover and confidence to parent advocates on the ground who are working to bring about change in their local schools. Teachers who felt ill-prepared to teach reading are writing letters to the deans of their education schools saying, for example, that they felt “totally unprepared to teach reading, especially to the struggling readers that I had at the beginning of my career in my resource classroom.” And parents from different districts and states are learning from one another and feeling buoyed in their fights by the increased attention on the subject.
There is strength in numbers—so parents, let’s seize this moment, together. Thank you to the Pennsylvania moms of Everyone Reads T/E for demonstrating what parent advocacy around reading can look like and for providing a roadmap for others who want to join you in this fight. If we care about social justice and equity, reading instruction needs to be at the top of our priority list.
One thought on “Now THIS is parent advocacy!”
I was educated in the 70s to use phonics in my ELEM ED curriculum in my teaching programs at RIC. We learned the science and spent a great deal of time practicing these skills in practicums at Henry Barnard and other locales in surrounding schools. It was also how I learned to read at a private school and cedar hill in Warwick. Like everything in education, the way we learned wasnt good enough, how we taught wasn’t good enough. The ivory towers dumbed education down to the point where literacy and math competence is sadly low. At reunions we discuss how we did. How we excelled in demanding stem careers. How our industrial arts program prepared plumbers, electrician, automotive repair techs etc. With the math and reading skills to flourish. It is amazing how low the product of our education system is compared to today. The much pooh poohed old ways produced folks that created much of the technologies we use today, with less exposure to technologies that would be built on. We boomers excelled and demonstrated creativity, cooperation, critical thinking, and high order thinking without having been specifically taught these skills. But we had teachers that were determined that we knew our math, science basics, reading and writing skills that we needed with the support of our parents. There were consequences for failure that matter… That doesnt happen today, no we pity them. So sad…