We read with great interest the op-ed from Jim Goodnight of SAS regarding third-grade literacy in North Carolina and the comprehensive Why Reading Matters report from the national Business Roundtable (N&O, Feb. 8). We are pleased to see such a strong group of North Carolina business leaders coming together to ensure all students have the reading foundation they need to succeed in school and prepare for entering the workforce.
Today we want to shine a light on a particularly vulnerable population of students: the roughly 20 percent of students with learning and attention issues.
You may hear these issues referred to as learning disabilities, dyslexia, or attention deficit disorder. These issues are brain-based difficulties that may give students trouble with reading, writing, math, organization, concentration, listening comprehension, and/or social skills.
These difficulties are NOT the result of laziness or a lack of intelligence. Kids with learning differences are just as smart as their peers; they just need explicit, direct, multisensory instruction from well-trained teachers attuned to students’ individual needs.
We support the policy recommendations outlined in Why Reading Matters because we believe they are critical to developing stronger third-grade reading proficiency and reversing the skills gap.
We want to emphasize the critical need for three particular recommendations: early childhood education, quality training in literacy developing for all teachers, and systematic interventions for struggling readers.
The Hill Center was founded in Durham in 1977 to serve the needs of local students with learning differences. Over the last 40 years, we have evolved into a private school with a deeply public mission: to partner with district, charter, and private schools to ensure that more students with learning differences achieve their potential – starting with learning to read.
Through our work we have met deeply caring and committed teachers, but we have also seen that too many teachers lack knowledge in the fundamentals of literacy development and thus are not equipped to address the needs of all the students in their classrooms. That’s why we have developed our Reading Achievement Program (HillRAP) as a powerful literacy intervention for struggling learners, delivered by trained teachers in local schools in 21 districts across North Carolina.
We are passionate about this work and proud to be a part of the diverse community of teachers, families, nonprofits, and business leaders advocating for improved services and outcomes for all of North Carolina’s children. We urge Gov. Cooper, members of the General Assembly, local business leaders, and all interested community members to heed the recommendations outlined in the Business Roundtable’s report on Why Reading Matters. We must come together to commit the time and resources to ensure all children, including those who learn differently, have the opportunity to succeed.
George A. “Trig” Horton III is manager of Hillsborough Holdings, LLC and Hillsborough Development Partners, LLC; and chair of the board at The Hill Center. Denise Morton is director of outreach at The Hill Center and former chief academic officer for Orange County Schools.
Why Reading Matters
“The United States has made some progress in improving reading, but the gains are too small and the pace too slow. To address this critical problem and make sure all students develop the kind of reading proficiency necessary in today’s economy, state leaders should consider a six-step policy agenda to create an aligned, coherent system of effective literacy instruction and support for their youngest students.”
Download the report at http://businessroundtable.org/why-reading-matters