Aument, Williams Bill to Improve Early Literacy Passes Senate

Bipartisan proposal would help ensure every PA child could read proficiently by 4th grade.

HARRISBURG – Legislation sponsored by Sens. Ryan Aument (R-36) and Anthony Williams (D-8) to give students the best chance of success through a strong, evidence-based reading program received Senate support today by a vote of 48-1.

Senate Bill 801 would use a three-pronged approach to improve early literacy in Pennsylvania. First, it would bolster reading instruction with evidence-based reading curricula. Second, it would identify struggling readers via universal screening within the first 30 days of school. Finally, schools and educators would use screening data to implement intervention plans to prevent children from falling behind.

Half of Pennsylvania’s fourth-grade students are reading below their grade level. Studies show that childhood reading difficulties can produce long-term effects and dramatically impact someone’s chances of success.

“Literacy is not only a critical skill for our kids’ lifelong success, but it’s also a great equalizer,” said Aument. “It empowers kids and teaches them valuable employment skills, raising their chances of getting a well-paying job or going to a good college after graduation. We must take this important step so our students can become proficient readers and take advantage of the opportunities associated with literacy.”

Currently, one in five American adults struggle with reading basic sentences. For these individuals, tasks such as reading the mail, completing tax forms, or even voting can be nearly impossible.

“We have a moral obligation to ensure that every child, regardless of their background or circumstances, has the opportunity to become a proficient reader,” said Williams. “By prioritizing evidence-based reading curricula, early screening, and targeted interventions, we can break the cycle of illiteracy and empower our students to succeed. I am thrilled we can unite for this crucial literacy initiative because investing in our children’s education is investing in the future of our nation.”

The bill mirrors a bipartisan proposal from Reps. Justin Fleming and Jason Ortitay.

“Teaching children how to read is one of the most important and fundamental things we can do,” Ortitay said. “While we have made some legislative progress in this area the past couple of years, we need to do more. This thoroughly vetted piece of legislation accomplishes that, and I’m grateful for everyone who helped craft it. The time is now.”

The bill language was crafted in collaboration with various education advocacy groups and associations, including the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) and the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA).

“According to Education Week, as of April 2024, 38 states have passed laws or implemented new policies related to evidenced-based reading instructions,” said Sherri Smith, Executive Director of PASA.  Senate Bill 801 sets the stage for Pennsylvania to join with these other states in implementing a science of reading approach in the primary classrooms. Helping our students to become proficient readers is core to our instructional programs and we appreciate the care that was put into developing this bill to provide the time and resources needed to implement this program into school programs across the Commonwealth.”

Senate Bill 801 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

VIDEO:                 Sen. Ryan Aument floor remarks (clip)
                                Sen. Ryan Aument floor remarks (full)

 AUDIO:                 Sen. Ryan Aument floor remarks (clip)
                                Sen. Ryan Aument floor remarks (full)

 PA students are struggling to read – we must help them (July 2023 joint op-ed by Sens. Aument and Williams)


CONTACT:            Stephanie Applegate, (Aument’s office)
                                Sabrina Hall (Williams’ office)

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