Literacy funds: early, middle and late

Congress is working on a $2.4 billion lliteracy bill that would double federal funding for reading, but spend only 35 percent on K-3 programs. Ten percent would go to pre-K, 50 percent to grades 4-12 and 5 percent to state administrators. The bill also puts more stress on teaching writing.

Reading First, now zeroed out, once spent $1 billion per year on K-3 programs.

Russell Gersten, the executive director of the Instructional Research Group, an educational research institute in Los Alamitos, Calif., said he, too, likes the bill’s emphasis on adolescent literacy, because “that’s where the heavy lifting needs to be, and there has not been much attention until recently.”

At the same time, he said he’s concerned that “the knowledge base is so thin in most of these areas, and we are scaling it up based on hopes, wishes, and theories.”

It would be nice to have a strong enough assessment component to be able to tell what’s working and what’s not making any difference.

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  1. Ponderosa says:

    This might all be money wasted if, as E.D. Hirsch and others claim, reading is best taught INDIRECTLY by providing kids with a knowledge-rich curriculum. It’s hard to understand a text if you don’t KNOW anything.

  2. Kids learn to read by doing a lot of it (and, fwiw, reading is a great way to gain knowledge). Most kids — especially kids who struggle — won’t do it on their own at home, but there’s little time during the school day after the early elementary years for reading in school. There’s no miracle program that can be published and sold for big bucks that is going to solve this complex issue. The money might be best spent for after school programs in middle school to fund high quality book clubs (mandatory for those below grade level, maybe an optional program for those at or above who want to tackle more interesting books — my daughter and her friends do this on their own informally).

    I’m by no means a reading specialist, but I see lots of reading gains with my strugglers just by getting them to read closely; mostly I use a lot of high interest drama, which lends itself naturally to class read alouds (they tend to love Agatha Christie mysteries and August Wilson) and short non-fiction pieces with a Bloom’s progression of questions.

  3. In a world swimming in information like the one we live in today, it seems necessary to teach another kind of literacy in addition to reading and writing: information literacy. How do you find information of the kind you are interested in when an online Google search produces dozens or even hundreds of results? The technology world we live in demands new skills in addition to the traditional ones.

    Check out an interesting blog post at: