The month of September has a special place in my heart. September always symbolizes “Back to School” for me and the excitement of learning and reconnecting with friends and teachers. It is also International Literacy Month. Founded by UNESCO, this month we are meant to reflect on the importance of literacy for individuals, communities and societies, and the need for intensified efforts towards more literate societies.
As literacy champions, this is not something that we do just once a year. You are focused on literacy all year long, as are we, in our collaboration to solve the literacy crisis and to help students to read and learn for success in their school years and beyond. So I wanted to take a moment during International Literacy Month to celebrate you, our community of educators for all that you do to support America’s students. Thanks to you, in the last school year we really made a difference together. You have persevered through a global pandemic, through the challenges of remote and hybrid learning formats, through the ongoing harsh realities and the imposition of disrupted learning, and the heart breaking social-emotional issues that have emerged and impacted our students, our classrooms and ourselves.
Our partnership has grown in strength and in numbers. Our impact with Learning Ally Solutions now extends to over 2 million students, and supports nearly a half million educators in schools across the country. Our work together continues to accelerate, with pages read by students through the Learning Ally Audiobook Solution reaching over 161 million, a gain of 20% from FY19 and quadrupled since FY16. Our work together continues as many of you have brought and implemented our newest solution for emergent readers, Excite Reading™ into your PreK-2nd grade classrooms, supporting the building of foundational reading skills in the earliest school years. Our work together continues as we join together in our Professional Learning Solutions, events and communities, immersing ourselves in the training, conversation and inspiration that promotes the literacy leadership required to drive transformational change at scale.
The struggle is real. The early summaries on the soon to be released NAEP scores highlight that even while our work and impact grows, we are still seeing the majority of students falling behind, especially those with learning differences and those from poor and underserved communities. Lifting up these communities through literacy is key to educational equity and solving the literacy crisis. Students can’t learn if they can’t read. And they can’t learn to read if there are barriers present impacting their ability to learn. That is why our solutions are informed by our unique approach, Whole Child Literacy™. This approach is designed to understand how each child learns. It focuses on three major components to learning to read, including the core foundational skills, based in the Science of Reading, that contribute to reading comprehension and skilled reading, and as importantly it addresses the cognitive and environmental factors that impact how a student learns. Through this approach, we’ve piloted solutions that have doubled the rate of reading growth for students and measured a host of benefits for teachers and students that include reduced prep time and alleviated stress for teachers, increased student achievement and independent reading, and growth in self confidence and class participation. We are thrilled to be able to partner with even more districts and schools this year, to support educators in delivering personalized instruction at scale and positive student outcomes.
Your role as teachers is the key to unlocking the potential for your students. As you return to school, energized to tackle the challenges and guide your students in their academic goals, we are here to support you. Thank you for all that you do as literacy champions and for your partnership. Our students are fortunate to have your continued dedication and expertise. Here’s to making literacy leaps in the coming school year!
Andrew Friedman was appointed to Learning Ally as President and CEO in January, 2011. As CEO, Andrew has led the transition from a government funded library of audiobooks for students with disabilities to a leading nonprofit, education solutions organization aimed to solve the literacy crisis in America by 2040. As an innovator, dedicated to educational equity, Friedman has championed the development of Whole Child Literacy Solutions and an “ecosystem” approach to breaking down the barriers of inequity in education. Friedman serves as a connector for partnerships between Districts, Policymakers, Researchers and Families/Communities, to bring a coordinated and orchestrated effort to benefit students across the country and drive transformational change in literacy and learning achievement.