National Commitee for Effective Literacy Petition

National, State and Local Education Leaders

The National Committee for Effective Literacy (NCEL) urges state education agencies (SEAs) and school districts (LEAs) to uplift and engage students in meaningful, effective literacy practices, guaranteeing that all students are taught literacy based on their identified strengths and needs.

We believe that literacy is at the heart of education – the gift and necessity of mastering the skills to read, write, and communicate effectively. To be able to write is a means of expression and voice. To be able to read is a means of pursuing and gaining knowledge by accessing stories, information and voices across time and across the world. For students, becoming a proficient reader and writer are essential keys to academic success in school.  

“One size fits all” literacy approaches exclude/discriminate against emergent bilinguals

Too often, however, a one-size fits all approach to what that early literacy development looks like leaves some children behind. Too often children who enter U.S. schools aren’t provided the language and literacy programs or instruction designed to address their needs so they fail to develop essential literacy skills. This is decidedly true for the large number of English learner/emergent bilingual (EL/EB) children in our nation’s schools.

Structured literacy (also inappropriately referred to as “the Science of Reading”)--typified by a focus on discrete skills taught out of context from the rest of the curriculum and with an exclusive emphasis on phonics--is a one-size-fits-all approach to literacy instruction proven to be ineffective during No Child Left Behind/Reading First era (Nov. 2008 Reading First Impact Study) funded with $6 billion. Studies demonstrated that students showed gains in standardized assessments of foundational literacy skills, but there was no positive impact on reading comprehension for first-third grade students, and Reading First was generally deemed to be a failure, a very expensive failure. We cannot return to this approach.

What Emergent Bilinguals need to succeed

The research on teaching reading has identified an overall generic comprehensive set of five interrelated essential components – but research has also consistently found that these essential components, while needed, are not sufficient for English learners. The development of literacy by English learners includes all of the challenges implicit in native English speakers’ learning to read and write and is additionally compounded by a diversity of linguistic, cognitive and academic variables. There is now consistent, coherent research that extends beyond those five essential components of literacy instruction to include integrating meaning-making, language development, oral language development, and a dual language pedagogy to build language skills in a new language that leverages skills and knowledge in the home language and literacy development integrated with the development of content knowledge.

To: National, State and Local Education Leaders
From: [Your Name]

We, the undersigned, affirm the robust understanding of literacy as embracing all of the five essential components described in the National Reading Panel as crucial and inter-related, and avoid the dangerous narrowing of literacy instruction to a few foundational skills. We know this robust approach is important for all students. Build upon that understanding by heeding the National Literacy Panel on Language Minority Children and Youth and subsequent research on literacy development for emerging bilinguals by embracing the dual language brain, scaffolding and targeting English instruction for English learner/emergent bilinguals, and emphasizing the development of strong biliteracy.

We are committed to effective literacy instruction for emergent bilinguals in English and other languages. We call for federal, state and local leadership and investment in professional development for all educators, as well as curriculum and resources to support the instruction that emergent bilingual students deserve but have never been sufficiently prioritized.

We encourage parents, educators, researchers, organizations and community members to support a comprehensive, integrated approach to literacy. We urge all stakeholders who want to send a powerful message to influence policy and practice for effective literacy instruction for emergent bilinguals to sign this petition and share with others.