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Celebrating ‘Read Across America Day’

In recognition of the important role books and literacy serve in our democracy, Gov. Gavin Newsom recently celebrated “Read Across America Day” by spotlighting the state’s investments to


Pandemic blamed for current low reading achievement.

In recognition of the important role books and literacy serve in our democracy, Gov. Gavin Newsom recently celebrated “Read Across America Day” by spotlighting the state’s investments to improve literacy, including over $9 billion to support evidence-based policy changes and improve student literacy outcomes across the state — with a particular focus on equity and uplifting California’s most disenfranchised students.

“Instead of dabbling in the zealotry of whitewashing literature and banning books, California is making transformational investments to ensure our students can read,” said Newsom. “I know from my own challenges with dyslexia that when we help children read, we help them succeed. That’s why California is making transformational investments to improve student literacy.”

Read Across America promotes reading to young children and helps in developing good habits at an early stage. There are innumerable health benefits provided by reading. It improves brain activity, aids sleep readiness and reduces stress. Reading can lower your blood pressure and heart rate and can even fight symptoms of depression. Reading regularly slows down our cognition from aging.

Reading of any kind increases vocabulary and comprehension skills. It drastically increases knowledge of various topics and makes us more intelligent. Reading stimulates the brain, improves memory, and makes better writers.

California outperformed most states — including Florida and Texas — in mitigating learning loss during the pandemic, and through historic levels of school funding, the state is building a cohesive structure of support for educators and students that reflects a focus on equity, inclusion, and academic success. Since 2019, this has included significant resources and targeted policy changes to improve student literacy outcomes.

Other recent investments the governor and legislature have made to improve literacy achievement in California include:

•  $7.9 BILLION FOR LEARNING RECOVERY: California is closing learning gaps through the implementation, expansion, or enhancement of learning supports, such as expanded instructional time, tutoring and other one-on-one or small group learning supports, and learning recovery programs.

•  $250 MILLION FOR COACHES AND SPECIALISTS: California is hiring literacy coaches and reading specialists across the state.

•  $28 MILLION FOR EARLY LITERACY: California is empowering parents and caregivers to help our youngest learners get an early start to literacy through a partnership with First 5 California.

The National Education Association (N.E.A.) aims to encourage reading and to educate people about its benefits, especially among children and young adults. Nationwide, the average reading score on the National Assessment of Educational Progress  (NAEP) fell three points from 2019 to 2022. This represents a significant decline in reading skills for all but the top 10% of 4th graders.

According to the NAEP report, 4th and 8th graders likewise perform on par with students in the 1990s, and about a third of students in both grades can’t read at even the “basic” achievement level — the lowest level on the test.

Moreover, half of U.S. adults can’t read a book written at the 8th-grade level, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The OECD comprises 38 member countries and a range of partners collaborating on critical global issues at national, regional, and local levels, like literacy.

The average American reads at the 7th- to 8th-grade level, according to The Literacy Project. According to a 2019 report from the National Center for Education Statistics, which cited data from 2012 and 2014, found that 23% of Black adults in the country were considered to be low literacy, compared to 35% of White adults and 34% of Hispanic adults.

Statistics underscore a connection between literacy and incarceration:

•  Eighty-five percent of all juveniles in the court system are functionally low-literate.

•  Juvenile incarceration reduces the probability of high school completion and increases the likelihood of incarceration later in life.

•  High school dropouts are 3.5 times more likely than high school graduates to be arrested in their lifetime.

•  High school dropouts are 63% more likely to be incarcerated than their peers with four-year college degrees.

For the last two years, Community Coalition has worked with community partners, students, and parents to transform Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) approach to addressing low literacy and math proficiency for Black students.

The coalition helped create and continue to support the implementation of the Black Student Achievement Plan (BSAP), which provides a concentration of resources and supports that foster high academic performance, build solid social-emotional awareness and management, and create a positive cultural identity.

With the current annual investments of close to $120M, the majority of BSAP funds have been allocated to schools with the highest concentrations of Black students, like those in South LA.