Kudos to the Madison Reading Project for promoting early literacy by putting books into the hands of young children. If only it was that simple.
For children to become readers, they need to be taught how to read. Having books is important -- effective literacy instruction is essential.
Children who are not proficient readers by fourth grade are four times more likely to drop out of school. Additionally, two-thirds of them will end up in prison or on welfare.
Though these dismal trajectories are well known, Madison School District's reading scores for minority students remain unconscionably low and flat. According to the most recent data from 2017-18, fewer than 9 percent of black and fewer than 20 percent of Hispanic fourth graders were reading proficiently. Year after year, we fail these students in the most basic of our responsibilities to them: teaching them how to read.
Much is known about the process of learning to read, but a huge gap is between that knowledge and what is practiced in our schools. The Madison School District needs a science-based literacy curriculum overseen by licensed reading professionals who understand the cognitive processes that underlie learning how to read.
Only then will our students be able to enjoy the wonderful books we are giving to them.
Laurie Frost and Jeff Henriques, Madison