Literacy and Learning: Keys to Success for All Students Mary-Dean Barringer, CEO, All Kinds of Minds

I love reading. I love the feel of a book in my hand and seeing the ink stains from combing a newspaper from front to back. The end of summer makes me a little sad that I won’t have the extra moments to squeeze in one more novel, journal article, short story, or blog. I can’t imagine my world without the skills of literacy I’ve acquired over my lifetime, starting with the strong foundation I developed during my school years.

On September 15, I was invited to Washington, D.C., to attend the release of a new report from the Carnegie Corporation’s Council on Advancing Adolescent Literacy, and I was struck by some of the grim statistics highlighted during the meeting:

“Approximately 8 million of the 32.5 million students in fourth through twelfth grade read below the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) minimum or basic standards for their grade level (NCES).” The increased literacy demands in the workplace, college and community contribute to the fact that “almost 40% of high school graduates lack the reading and writing skills that employers seek, and almost a third of high school graduates who enroll in college require remediation (National Governors Association).” And this doesn’t even address the literacy needs of the one million students who dropped out of school last year.

Six years in the making, the Council’s report, “A Time to Act: An Agenda for Advancing Adolescent Literacy for College and Career Success,” makes a compelling argument for continued literacy instruction through high school and provides research, policy guidance and resources for practitioners. The website, www.carnegie.org/literacy, gives you free access to the latest report and related publications, as well as the products from the partners they funded in this effort. David Coleman, president of Student Achievement, said it best: “We owe a debt of gratitude to Carnegie for making such a source of intellectual capital widely available.”

The work and recommendations of this panel help advance the overarching mission of All Kinds of Minds to equip educators with the knowledge, tools and strategies to ensure that struggling learners find success and all students have opportunities to achieve their greatest promise. All of us have witnessed first hand the observation by researcher Catherine Snow’s that “many excellent third-grade readers will falter or fail in later-grade academic tasks.” We share the commitment of the Carnegie panel to a new approach to literacy training: not only to help students to learn to read between kindergarten and third grade, but also to teach them to “read to learn”—and to write and think critically — in the subsequent grades. I’m confident that when we–the adults who teach our nation’s children–combine what we know about how students are wired to learn with the best research-based strategies of instruction on adolescent literacy, we can ensure that all our students can read, write, think and learn at the high level required to chart our course (and theirs) in the 21st century.

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