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As the Reading Crisis Persists, Here’s How You Can Help Your Child
By Alison Bailin - Friday Mar 08, 2024
March is National Reading Month.

However, there is a reading crisis in the country.

“The average reading score for fourth graders has been declining since 2017, with 37% falling below the basic achievement level in 2022. And these statistics are troubling when you understand the devastating ripple effect low reading skills can have on a child’s education and future,” said Alysha Tinsley, the K-5 Principal at Arizona Virtual Academy (AZVA)

Tinsley joined AZVA team as a highly qualified teacher in July 2007. She has been part of the K–5 leadership team for several years and transitioned into the lead master teacher role in 2020, the assistant principal role in 2021, and the principal role in 2023. She was honored to receive the Teacher of the Year award during the 2016–2017 school year and the Administrator of the Year award during the 2022-2023 school year.

“Research shows that students who are not reading proficiently by the end of the third grade are less likely to graduate high school, which makes sense when you consider that reading comprehension is expected starting in fourth grade,” said Tinsley. “This means, a student who is not reading at their grade level will likely struggle with basic understanding in multiple subjects. And without proper intervention, they will continue to struggle with academic performance year after year, leading to consequences that can reach far beyond graduation and into adulthood.”

As parents, according to Tinsley, there is a responsibility to ensure our children have the proper support to achieve and maintain grade-level reading skills.

“One way to do this is to find a school with a strong reading curriculum, and unfortunately, not all reading curricula are the same. What students need is a school that uses research-backed instructional methods that teach students how to read well,” said Tinsley.

In recent years, there has been a focus on COVID-19’s impact on student performance, and yet, the reading crisis started before the onset of the pandemic — COVID merely exacerbated the problem. And while this is a complex issue with many causes, a lot of research points to schools using ineffective instructional methods to teach reading. In fact, a recent study by the National Council on Teacher Quality found that 40% of teacher preparation programs are still teaching instructional methods that are counter to research-based practices, and 72% of elementary special education and K-2 teachers have incorporated many of these ineffective practices into their classrooms.

This is concerning when you look at the statistics around reading and the impact it can have on a person’s life and the population. According to Tinsley:

• Twenty-three percent of students who have low, below-basic reading skills drop out or do not finish high school on time;
• Forty-three million Americans have low English literacy skills and have difficulty completing tasks that require paraphrasing, comparing and contrasting information, and reaching conclusions; and
• Thirty-six million Americans lack basic literacy skills necessary for employment opportunities that can support a family.

“What students need is scientifically backed reading instruction, and research shows that this includes five essential components: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. Phonemic awareness — a skill that allows readers to identify and manipulate the smallest units of sounds within spoken works — is the foundation of reading and a critical skill that students need to learn,” said Tinsley.

With the ongoing reading crisis, many parents have turned to the K12 program for their reading guarantee, which states that students who attend a K12-powered online school continuously for grades 1-3 will read on grade level by the end of third grade. This guarantee is backed by their award-winning curriculum that incorporates the five essential components for reading, in addition to insightful performance assessments, an expansive online library, and engaging learning tools — all designed to help students develop strong reading skills.

“We cannot protect our children from every challenge life sends their way, but we can equip them with the foundational skills necessary for a fulfilling future. And this starts with reading. Reading opens a world of possibilities for our children, and it’s our responsibility to give them the resources and support they need to succeed in school and beyond,” said Tinsley.

For more information or resources, visit