Lawmaker Says Right to Read Bill Is About Equity

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Research shows that students who struggle to develop good reading skills often fall behind in school. Lawmakers and advocates believe every child has the right to read. 

“Children have to be taught to read by third grade and that’s the cliff point,” Sen. Doug McCrory said. 

McCrory, who chairs the education committee, an educator and a member of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, said the caucus has been focused on coming up with a statewide reading curriculum for five years. 

“So many kids have not been taught how to read by third grade and the discrepancy and disparity is really devastating to so many kids in our communities,” McCrory said. 

Overall, according to Education Department data, “50% of all third grader students in Connecticut are not reading at grade level,” Amy Dowell, Connecticut director of Education Reform Now, said. 

A closer look at the data shows only one-third of Black and latino students are reading at grade level according to Dowell. 

“Before third grade you’re learning to read and after third grade you’re reading to learn,” Dowel said. 

The bill up for debate Wednesday tasks boards of education with implementing a reading curriculum from a curated list of programs. Those programs would have to be evidence-based with a focus on phonics, fluency, vocabulary development, and reading fluency.

Right now the school districts get to decide what reading curriculum to use, even if it’s not research or science based. 

Under the legislation school districts would need to get a waiver to opt out of a reading program.

“It’s very difficult to sit in a fifth grade class when everyone else can read and you can’t, right? What you going to do? You’re going to bother the kid next to you.”  

It’s also an equity issue. 

“This is a huge equity issue. This is huge. The thing is we have the financial resources to do it,” McCrory said. 

The education committee is expected to vote on the bill in the coming weeks. 

“With the CARES Act money, there’s no excuse we can’t do it now,” McCrory said.

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