We are at a pivotal time in our country. As reading achievement declines pre-and post-COVID-19, large portions of our nation’s students continue to be underserved by our education system while many teachers do not have needed support to provide evidence-based literacy instruction (NAEP, 2024). In this white paper, CASEL and leading researchers across diverse disciplines urge policymakers to consider the full breadth of research on literacy to enable strong reading development and to improve teacher knowledge and their ability to deliver rigorous instruction. We demonstrate evidence for an integrated approach to building foundational reading skills that also focus on comprehension, language, knowledge, and social and emotional learning.

Since the 2000 National Reading Panel, new insights have emerged from a comprehensive understanding of the Science of Reading about the nature of reading, how students develop their skills in it, and effective teaching pedagogy. In many states, legislation has been passed in the past few years emphasizing a comprehensive approach to improving reading and literacy. While this is a good start, more must be done to support the literacy development of all students and close gaps in reading achievement. Such an undertaking cannot be achieved without comprehensive and long-term literacy programs based on solid empirical evidence. Current research in the fields of human development, learning sciences, and neurosciences build upon each other and demonstrate that learning environments and instruction must support students’ social and emotional development and well-being to drive student literacy development.

The white paper also puts forward research and policy recommendations to support a comprehensive approach to supporting student literacy development and instruction through:

  • Strengthening Education Research, including by:
    • Updating the National Reading Panel and Commissioning Studies on Literacy Development
    • Bridging the Science of Reading and the Science of Learning and Development
  • Strengthening Teacher Preparation and Professional Development
  • Expanding Access to Reading Supports in the Classroom, School, and Community Libraries

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