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Addressing Australia’s reading crisis

Photo courtesy of The Canberra Times.

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Reading failure among children in Australia has reached alarming levels, with 40% of 15-year-olds unable to read at a proficient level, according to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2018. This national literacy crisis, coupled with significant equity issues, highlights the urgent need for action.

Today, Jessica Colleu Terradas, Churchill Fellow and Senior Officer-Teaching and Learning Literacy and Instructional Coach, in the Catholic Education of Canberra and Goulburn, has released a comprehensive report that unveils key findings and recommendations to tackle this pressing issue and ensure every child has an equal opportunity to succeed.

The report emphasises that reading proficiency is not only crucial for academic achievement but also has a profound impact on children’s socio-emotional development, making it a public health issue. No child should leave primary school unable to read.

The report puts forth several key recommendations. First, it calls for increased monitoring and accountability by mandating standardised evidence-based universal screening assessments in all schools. This early identification of reading difficulties can ensure timely interventions and support for students at risk for reading problems.

Second, the report emphasises the importance of implementing a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) framework in primary and secondary schools. This framework provides targeted interventions and support for students who are at risk of developing reading problems and those who have already fallen behind in reading, focusing on high-quality instruction and using data-based decision making to inform instruction.

The report also highlights the need for investment in teaching effectiveness and the promotion of evidence-based reading instruction practices in every classroom. It urges Australian governments to provide clear guidance on selecting high-quality reading curricula and interventions aligned with research findings.

The release of this report comes at a crucial time, as the National School Reform Agreement (NRSA) panel members are due to deliver a report to federal, state, and territory education ministers in October. Jessica Colleu Terradas hopes that the report’s findings will inform government policies and practices for proficient reading among all Australia students and shape the future of schooling in Australia, leading to more equitable outcomes.


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