Over a year ago, experts predicted that the COVID-19 crisis would force an entire generation of learners to play catch-up — students would be at least a year behind. Unfortunately, this has become the reality nationwide, especially among our most vulnerable families and communities.
Long before a child walks into their first classroom, their academic trajectory is shaped by the educational attainment of their parents. A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health in 2010 showed that a mother’s education level is the single greatest determinant of her children’s future academic success, outweighing every other factor. Our founder, Barbara Bush, summed it up best when she said, “A parent is a child’s first and best teacher.”
Yet, with 130 million Americans – 54 percent of adults – essentially reading below a sixth-grade level, we know that many parents and caregivers are simply unequipped or unable to fulfill that vital role. Adults who struggle with literacy are far more likely to live in poverty, be unemployed or underemployed, have poor health outcomes, and experience food and housing insecurity – as are their children.
The path ahead
We must recognize the inextricable link between grade-level reading and family literacy. Reading challenges are often passed down from parent to child. As we move out of the pandemic – from rescue to recovery – we must work collaboratively to break this persistent, multigenerational cycle of low literacy in America. It is imperative that we find innovative ways to address the needs of parents and caregivers, using evidenced-based solutions and technology to meet them where they are.
This will take all of us: the education community, corporations, foundations, philanthropists, and everyone working in the social sector. Together, we can create a more equitable playing field – a stronger America in which everyonehas the opportunity to fulfill their potential and navigate the world with dignity.