By: Allister Chang, Ward 2 Representative
Ever since being sworn in on January 2nd as a member of the D.C. State Board of Education, I can’t stop thinking about the urgency for literacy among all of our students.
Imagine you’re in 4th grade. Your social studies teacher calls on you to answer a question about the Declaration of Independence. You struggled to read the homework last night, so you mumble a response. You pretend not to care, but deep down you’re feeling frustrated. You zone-out for the rest of the class.
Literacy matters for students. Children who do not read proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
“I wasn’t prepared to teach 10th graders who can’t read,” a high-school biology teacher recently lamented to me. Literacy isn’t only important for the humanities, illiteracy stalls science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning, too.
Literacy matters for all of us. In a pandemic, it matters that everyone in the community knows how to read health and safety guidelines. Media literacy matters too. Learning how to read is just the beginning. In 2021, we must prepare our students to navigate emerging technologies and to distinguish between fact from fiction online. Our Founding Fathers wrote extensively about the importance of literacy education as the foundations of a vibrant democracy, a privilege that we too often take for granted.
Expanding literacy opportunities for D.C. students is personal for me. My father immigrated to D.C. from Taipei. Though he couldn’t teach me how to read, he worked hard as a waiter in D.C.’s Chinatown in order to connect me to literacy-learning opportunities that allowed me to pursue my own path: to become a first-generation college graduate and to become the first Asian-American elected to D.C.’s State Board of Education.
All children deserve access to those opportunities. Over the next four years, advancing literacy across DC is my top priority, and I’ll need your help. Through my newsletter, I’ll be sharing opportunities for you to join me in amplifying literacy learning. Let’s get all our students reading!