Report: Parents Feel Uninformed About Their Child’s Reading Education at School

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Mayor Eric Adams’ extensive effort to enhance reading instruction has primarily focused on educators. However, a report released on Thursday argues that caregivers play a crucial role in improving reading instruction, and the city should do more to involve them.

The report examines parent perceptions of how well schools communicate about reading instruction. It is based on focus group interviews with 19 mothers from New York City, conducted by Advocates for Children, a nonprofit organization that has been advocating for stronger approaches to reading instruction in the city.

According to the report, caregivers often reported that their concerns about their child’s reading challenges were ignored by schools, and they were unsure how to seek help. Some caregivers stated that they received limited information from their child’s school regarding the city’s new curriculum overhaul.

“The message needs to come from the top that family engagement requires more than just passing along information,” says the report, which provides recommendations for improving communication between parents and schools. “It means valuing parents’ expertise about their children.”

The parents who participated in the focus groups during the summer were not selected randomly, and almost all of them have at least one child with a disability. However, their interviews reveal common obstacles as well as some positive aspects.

We are collaborating with CBS on a series about literacy in NYC schools. You can find more of their education coverage here.

Here are three key findings from the report:

Parents face challenges in being heard

Several parents mentioned that they noticed their child’s reading difficulties early on, but schools dismissed their concerns by saying that they would outgrow them. In cases where a child was already receiving special education services, caregivers felt that schools were reluctant to provide targeted help for specific reading problems or consider the possibility of dyslexia, a language-based learning disability.

Other parents stated that educators identified reading issues, but the school failed to develop a concrete plan to address them. Shy Washington, a mother from the Bronx, shared her experience of her son consistently failing to meet the goals outlined in his special education learning plan, resulting in a further lag in reading. However, she felt that she never received a clear explanation of the school’s strategy and the reasons behind its ineffectiveness.

“I wanted a roadmap — I wanted some direction,” said Washington in an interview with . “I looked to them for the answers, and I ended up having to search for my own because they had none for me.”

Caregivers desire more information about instruction and how to support learning at home

Parents often expressed a lack of awareness regarding their child’s school’s approach to reading instruction, including the city’s wide-ranging curriculum overhaul.

“Most had heard little to nothing about NYC Reads [the city’s new reading curriculum mandate] or about the literacy curriculum being used at their children’s schools,” notes the report. “More than one wished there were more opportunities to discuss their child’s performance and individual needs in depth.”

Some parents expressed a desire for more guidance on how they could assist their child at home, beyond the standard advice of reading to them for 15-20 minutes each night.

However, some parents received regular updates about classroom activities. One mother received emails throughout the week from her child’s kindergarten teacher, providing information about their ongoing work and optional worksheets to catch up on missed lessons.

“I felt so empowered by that because I felt like I had some direction, some guidance,” said the parent in a focus group interview.

The process of obtaining additional help is unclear

Parents often feel uncertain about the next steps to take if their child is struggling with reading and not receiving the necessary support.

“The difficulty of navigating the public school system and getting answers to their questions came up in nearly every one of our conversations,” states the report by Advocates for Children.

Shy Washington, a mother of an eighth grader who faces challenges in reading, had a hard time navigating the complex special education system in the city. She requested multiple evaluations when her son was in elementary school but felt that the services provided were insufficient. Eventually, she sought outside evaluations with assistance from The Legal Aid Society to put pressure on the city to offer additional help. She also looked for tutoring support outside of her son’s school.

Her main advice to parents is to be prepared to forge their own path.

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