Blog Posts

The Nation’s Report Card: declining reading scores

Erin Bailey is Reading Is Fundamental’s Director of Programs and Content, a former teacher, and is pursuing her Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction. In light of the October 24th release of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results, Erin shares her thoughts and expertise on how we can work together to ensure our nation’s children have the support and resources they need to become passionate, lifelong readers. 

With the latest release of NAEP results, it is evident that reading scores are on the decline.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results were released today and while the data is discouraging, I feel optimistic that we can unite and recover. The NAEP results show that school disruptions caused by COVID-19 have returned us to reading scores seen 30 years ago. The number of children not reading proficiently has grown: thirty-seven percent of fourth-graders performed below NAEP Basic in reading. The achievement gap has widened, and the lowest-performing students have fallen further behind. As a former teacher, literacy expert and parent, these results are disheartening to me, but I know that by working together, we can reverse and, in time, improve this trend. And I know that RIF is deeply committed to supporting educators and families as the key to this reversal.

While our progress has dropped back to 1992 levels, I do not believe it will take us 30 years to recover from this. Today, we know there are evidence-based practices, such as those identified by the National Reading Panel, for teaching reading that will help students to recover and excel.

At RIF, we know it takes a village, and we are incredibly thankful that you – our families, educators, literacy advocates, and volunteers – share our commitment to supporting our nation’s children in their reading education and success. Having worked in classrooms across the U.S. and internationally, I know what a difference it can make when educators and families collaborate to support their students. While I share your frustration and dismay, I know how dedicated you are to supporting your students and children as we tackle this national crisis together. Because of this, we are sharing some family engagement resources and educator tools from RIF that you can put to use today:

  • Early Childhood Tip Sheet: Studies show that reading to children, even from birth, builds literacy. Use this tip sheet to help your child begin their reading journey.
  • At-Home Reading Webinar: RIF has a wealth of webinars, including one on at-home reading tips, where we share strategies and activities that families can use to support literacy development.
  • Read-Aloud Guide: Reading a book aloud with children is one of the first steps of putting them on the path to becoming proficient, lifelong readers and learners. Use this guide for tips in maximizing read-aloud time.
  • Vocabulary Guide for Educators: This guide helps educators determine which vocabulary words and phrases they should teach as they are encountered in books and text.
  • Rally to Read 100: This free six-month reading engagement program, aimed at inspiring a joy and love of reading, includes monthly read-alouds from beloved children’s authors and a variety of stimulating reading activities, all tied to monthly themes.

For nearly six decades, RIF has focused on partnering with educators and families to best support children on their reading journey. We believe that now, more than ever, is a critical time to come together and work to inspire a joy of reading for all children and support them to become strong readers and leaders. Together, I know we can make a difference on setting children back on course.