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What To Do About Stalling Literacy Rates in the U.S.

Categories: Education & Teaching

What to do about the lack of progress in reading scores?

student readingWe know that a student’s reading proficiency directly impacts their ability to succeed academically. Strong literacy skills aren’t just important throughout a child’s education, but carry significant weight as they move into adulthood and start their careers. Because of literacy’s link to academic success, reading performance is evaluated consistently throughout K-12. The hope is that with all the focus and resources spent on literacy development and reading skills, test scores will improve, and the literacy gap will narrow. The most recent data from the Nation’s Report Card, unfortunately, showed bleak results. The gap in reading performance isn’t shrinking. Not only that, but students who were already dealing with a skill deficit are performing worse. Determining how to combat these disappointing results requires a combination of understanding where the educational deficits lie while implementing the right resources to truly help struggling readers succeed.

Digging into the data

“Since 2017, reading performance has dropped significantly across grades 4 and 8,” according to an Education Week analysis of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data. In 2019, only one state showed improved reading rates for fourth graders, Mississippi. Washington, D.C. was the only place to experience an increase in reading rates for students in eighth grade. Everywhere else, across the nation, saw proficiency scores decline.

National Achievement-Level Results Chart

Around a third of each grade level is currently at or above the achievement level expected of students within those grades. At a time when it’s known how important strong reading skills are throughout school and into adulthood, data like this is almost frightening. It’s imperative we find a solution to help these students.

Building skills in the classroom to improve literacy rates

A key area potentially impacting the reading deficit is how educators engage with struggling students. “NCES researchers found teachers of low-performing students in reading, math, and science…were significantly less likely than their peers teaching high-performing students to report that they engage their classes in higher-order thinking or offered students advanced work,” according to Education Week. Students should feel challenged in their work in order to stay interested, and ignoring that fact with individuals already struggling to read can make them detach even more from the necessary skills to succeed.

An example of this is where eighth graders, at the lowest proficiency level of reading, are asked to summarize reading passages as a way to improve comprehension skills. This exercise not only prevents them from really engaging with the content, but also can be discouraging because they are struggling to decode the passage. In addition, they’re getting asked to do the most basic assignment while students at a higher proficiency level are allowed to analyze characters’ motivations or identify general themes within a selection. These engaging and interesting activities promote discussion and teach students to think beyond the words on the page, which promotes comprehension on a broader scale. They’re also accessible for students at any reading level, bringing the class onto the same page in a way that’s positive for everyone. Focus the assignment around a common topic for all students, and the foundational knowledge will help make decoding easier as well.

Learning to enjoy reading

Participation in a reading assignment is only part of the equation. Students also need encouragement to become lifelong readers. Improving a student’s comfort level with reading, so that reading stops feeling like a chore, adds another layer toward their developing literacy skills. “Only about 40 percent of 8- to 12-year-olds said they enjoyed reading "a lot," and more than one- third of them say they read daily. By the teen years, only 22 percent reported reading every day, and fewer than 1 in 4 reported really enjoying reading,” according to data from the Education Week article. This means students aren’t getting into the habit of reading, possibly because they’re not being encouraged to read, even if it’s assigned as homework. Maybe reading is simply too hard, and they give up. Maybe students get tired of not understanding what they’re asked to read, so don’t try.

Giving students access to books in a format they can connect with helps transform disinterested readers into passionate book lovers. Creating an environment where students can connect to what they’re reading and talk about it with their peers leaves a lasting impact. Doing that though, requires the right tools and the right approach to literacy.

Approaching literacy by providing options

Given all the roadblocks placed in front of students on their journey to improved reading skills, most of which they can’t control, it’s essential they get access to the right resources. They need tools that engage them in reading, helping to mold them into lifelong readers. They need access to content that appropriately challenges and interests them, which means a wide range of titles. It’s no easy feat to create both a format and a library that supports students in this way.

Through equitable access to all the books students want and need to read, Learning Ally’s Audiobooks help struggling readers become engaged, independent learners. With an extensive library of over 80,000 human-read audiobooks with highlighted text for students to follow, Learning Ally presents content in a multi-sensory format that enables readers to absorb books easily. Not only can students stay on-task with their school work by reading books aligned to their curriculum, but Learning Ally has a wide assortment of popular fiction, non-fiction, STEAM-based titles and more to attract any student.

As a teaching tool, once you’ve gained a student’s interest in reading, you’re able to use Learning Ally to:

  • Track student’s reading progress.
  • Manage assignments.
  • Provide progress reports to parents and administrators.
  • Access professional learning resources and support.

Combat the boredom of generic reading comprehension assignments with Learning Ally’s innovative tools that invigorate the classroom, and help students build reading acumen and confidence.

Closing the gap in reading

Students need a stronger connection and comfort level to reading in order to truly lessen the literacy gap in the US. Resources and activities that pique their interest start the process, which is then enhanced with classroom discussions and assignments. When students face a reading deficit or just need some extra support, a combination of these often does the trick. Teacher support and guidance goes a long way, but so does access to the tools students can use both in and out of the classroom. Audiobooks are one option to consider. Solutions like Learning Ally may help struggling students by making books students are already reading in class more accessible.

These disappointing reading scores don’t have to be the norm. With the right strategies and support, today’s educators are in a strong position to affect change and positively impact student success.


Support Your Students with Reading Deficits with the Learning Ally Audiobook Solution

The Learning Ally Audiobook Solution is a multi-sensory reading accommodation that levels the playing field for students who struggle to read due to a reading deficit, providing them the opportunity achieve in school and in life. Gaining access to the books they want to read—and the books they need to read—in an easy-to-absorb format can be a game changer. Sign up for a demo or get more information today to experience the satisfaction of seeing students who have never before experienced reading success blossom, with improved grades, higher test scores and increased confidence and self-esteem.