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How You Can Support Literacy for All

Contributed by: Joy Lyman, 313Reads Michigan Education Policy Fellow with Teach for America Detroit

Literacy is the greatest civil rights issue of our time. The 313Reads Literacy Coalition is constantly working to support effective, research based literacy instruction. We are also passionate about helping to spread the word on how you can get involved!

Action 1: Learn more about the literacy crisis and raise awareness. We are facing a literacy crisis in the US, in Michigan, and in Metro Detroit. 21% of adults in the United States struggle with low literacy skills, meaning they aren’t able to easily read and write. Throughout Michigan, only 28% of 4th grade students are reading proficiently, with large equity gaps for historically marginalized groups.

Locally, Detroit students won a lawsuit against the state of Michigan for failing to provide adequate literacy instruction for the eight years the district was under emergency management. There are a lot of factors that contribute to this continuing issue, but one of the ones that stands out starkly from the rest is the fact that educators throughout the country have been using outdated practices for teaching reading for decades. Throughout our state, the Michigan Education Justice Coalition, in partnership with 313Reads and other organizations, has been sponsoring screenings of the groundbreaking documentary The Right to Read. You can watch the documentary via a screening or host your own screening in your community/organization to help bring this important message to others.

Action Two: Support state legislation. The Michigan Senate has approved two of the three Literacy for All Bills with some adjustments to their language. This isn’t the end of the road! Calling and writing your Representative in the Michigan House, especially those on the House Education Committee to ask them to hold a hearing for these bills can help them move forward. 313Reads believes it is urgent that these bills pass swiftly, because our community of students, literacy professionals, and families will be positively impacted by the passage of these bills. Additionally, if you’re interested in testifying in support of the bills during hearings, keep an eye on their progress by signing up for alerts. The content of these bills supports strategies that are recommended from esteemed organizations, like the National Council on Teacher Quality.

Action Three: Start Now. During his moving SXSW keynote from early literacy expert Spencer Russell, he shared these five things we can do to help everyone read: 

1. Know the research

2. Stop theorizing, start teaching

3. Keep it simple

4. Partner with parents

5. Get started now

If you’d like to get started now, check out 313Reads’ recommended resources for supporting literacy in your family and community. We offer literacy resources for educational providers and families,  


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