Sunday June 23, 2024

The Science of Reading and Community

The data continues to tell us we need to do better for our kids. Nationally, almost 70% of low-income fourth grade students cannot read at a basic level (May 2023). In Oklahoma, 76% of fourth graders cannot read on a basic level according to NAEP scores (National Association of Educational Progress, May 2022). In Oklahoma City Public Schools, 66% of fourth graders cannot read at basic level, based on state OSTP (Oklahoma School Testing Program) scores.

The way reading is taught isn’t something everyone thinks about. Unless you work in and around education, or have kids in schools who are learning to read – it’s likely you don’t spend a lot of time pondering how it all happens. There is a movement in Oklahoma and across the country to utilize reading instruction that focuses on structured literacy, emphasizing the fact that words are made of individual letters, sounds and word parts. Phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension work together to allow students, with explicit instruction, to decode to become skilled readers over time. This type of reading instruction has proven to be effective for all kids and especially effective for low-income kids. A moniker for this type of reading instruction is the Science of Reading.

What is especially exciting about the Science of Reading is that this is finally a topic related to education that everyone seems to agree on. School district leaders, school and teacher leaders, government leaders and community leaders are all leaning in to change the delivery method of reading instruction for our kids.

Oklahoma City Public Schools has implemented a comprehensive plan that includes the OKCPS Reading Guiding Coalition made up of primary stakeholders from throughout the district plus community; a complex professional development plan for administrators, instructional coaches and teachers; and a communications strategy for families and the community.

ReadOKC, the OKCPS Foundation’s reading and literacy program, is an integral stakeholder whose work is deeply embedded within our schools. A community partner event was held last week to share the history and the progress of ReadOKC. Attendees heard about the Science of Reading, as well as from a panel who shared real life experiences in each of ReadOKC’s focus areas: Reading Challenges, Reading Buddies/Book Clubs and Access to Books, which include Little Libraries and the ReadOKC on the Go Mobile Book Bus program.

While there are many ways to get involved in ReadOKC, a primary goal of the event was to promote volunteer opportunities for Reading Buddies and Book Clubs. This program is a proven model for bringing caring adults into our schools to read/mentor with students on a weekly basis. In addition to building reading skills and the love of reading, the program has proven to be an attendance driver, esteem builder and a connection for students who may not have many others in their lives who provide a sense of caring and stability. To get involved, please contact us at To learn more, visit

It will take a lot of focus, professional development and a cultural shift in schools, in families and in the community to grow our kids’ reading levels. What Oklahoma City Public Schools and ReadOKC has already proven is that focus makes a difference and our students are the winners.

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