Meanwhile, the most recent statewide test scores show that our literacy crisis persists: Less than half of fourth and eighth graders are proficient in reading. These results have not moved much in the past decade. The Los Angeles Times editorial board recently posed a powerful question for state education leaders: “We know how to turn students into better readers. Why doesn’t California do it?”

This month Families in Schools launched “Read LA! Literacy and Justice for All,” a campaign calling on California’s largest school district, Los Angeles Unified, to fully implement what’s known as the “science of reading” — a vast body of evidence-based research that shows us how kids actually learn to read and what effective literacy instruction requires. But education leaders and teachers are not the only ones responsible for ensuring every child learns to read.

Parents have a critical and multifaceted role to play.

Unfortunately, many parents are unclear about their children’s literacy development. One poll found that 92% of parents wrongly think their children are academically on track in reading (as well as math). For a forthcoming report on the California literacy crisis, we commissioned a poll (full results will be published soon) that found most parents have no idea what curriculum their child’s school uses. That poll also revealed that 1 in 3 parents are completely unfamiliar with the science of reading.

In our research, we also spoke at length with dozens of parents. We encountered a wide range of perspectives and experiences concerning their role in helping their children become literate.

Some parents don’t realize that literacy starts even before their children are old enough to hold a book. They aren’t aware of the abundance of research showing that by speaking to their infants, parents help them learn words and develop the neural patterns necessary for language comprehension. As their children grow, the research says, parents should engage in nurturing talk and interaction to help build their babies’ brains, which sets the foundation for all learning.

Of course, many parents we spoke with knew they had a crucial role to play in their children’s literacy and relished it. “Her face always lit up with excitement every time we read together, and she always had the book picked out for us, so I know she loved it as much as I did,” Sylvia Lopez told us, describing the countless hours she spent reading with her daughter.

However, economic and time constraints make it difficult for some parents to be as involved as they would like. “As a full-time working single mom, finding time to read with my son was sometimes a challenge,” Mary Lee said. When she was busy juggling work, dinner and other responsibilities, she got creative: “We often turned to rhyming stories that involved singing to make reading more enjoyable. This not only made reading fun but also boosted his recall abilities over time.”

Read the full article about literacy education by Yolie Flores at EdSource.