This episode, Ignite! Reading’s Co-founder and CEO, Jessica Sliwerski, talks about the illiteracy crisis in America, how her organization is giving children the right to read, and the ways to close the equity gap in early literacy instruction for children in poverty.
Jessica Sliwerski is the Founder & CEO of Ignite! Reading, a virtual high-dosage foundational reading skills intervention literacy program that’s partnering with schools in six states with a goal of serving 50,000 students in five years.
To reimagine how students are taught to read in school, Jessica launched Ignite! during her time as CEO of Open Up Resources, a national nonprofit whose mission is to increase equity in education by making high-quality curricula openly accessible to schools and districts. Here are a few of the topics we’ll discuss on this episode of Cache Flow:
- The necessary teaching that children need in order to be able to learn to read.
- How learning to read affects a child’s school experience and life trajectory.
- How Ignite! Reading is solving the reading crisis and giving children the right to learn to read.
- The ways the illiteracy crisis is linked to the school-to-prison pipeline.
- How to create a low-tech solution for teaching children to read.
- Ways to close the equity gap in early literacy instruction for children in poverty.
- The critical support and training available to classroom teachers for more sustainable results.
- 05:42 – “And if for some reason the school doesn’t teach you to read, there’s also this shadow system in education where families who are higher socioeconomic status will pay for tutoring for their kids. And so I watched all of this happen in my beginning years of teaching, and then continued to move through the system. In my experience being an assistant principal of a school, a principal coach across schools in New York City, co-founded my first ed tech company with a focus on literacy.”
- 12:24 – “Learning to read on time is fundamentally important to everything else about a child’s school trajectory and ultimately their life trajectory. And so then when we look at our nation’s illiteracy crisis, we look at what that means for the school to prison pipeline, what that means for our most marginalized and vulnerable kids in our country, what that especially means for children of color and in particular black boys, it is a huge, huge issue of equity because it should not be the case that your socioeconomic status, which in our nation is also very closely connected to skin color, dictates whether or not you’re going to go to school and get the right to learn to read and or have a parent that’s going to be able to provide a safety net when the schools don’t give that equitable access.”
- 31:07 – “They need a safety net. And so we are coming in as critical partners in the work we’re embedding within school and district literacy ecosystems. We’re ensuring that kids have this one-on-one daily instruction that’s differentiated for them, while also providing a really crucial scaffold to classroom teachers while they learn to do this work themselves. And then once they do learn, they’re sustaining it, and we’re able to go and ignite another school system.”
- 35:29 – “So the ineffective practices that exist and the right to read film really beautifully lays this out similarly to how Emily Hanford does, but then also with the visual in the documentary. An example of the ineffectiveness, and it’s gonna sound so absurd when you hear this, but if a child were reading an early text and it, the words might say, I sat on the couch, right? That’s what the words could literally say, but then the text would have a picture. And so a child who hasn’t learned to crack the code and actually read words as written would read that sentence potentially as I sit on the sofa cause they’re looking at the picture and this methodology of whole language that’s been perpetuated by, you know, these publishers and the authors, Lucy Calkins and Fountas and Pinnell would be like, yep, that works because sofa means couch.”
- 01:00:41 – “If we do our job well and right, the future could look one of, one of two ways, one way it could look is that Ignite reading is the way every first-grader in this country is being taught to read. And we have completely eliminated this illiteracy crisis, and we are ensuring that all kids leave first grade ready to start second grade knowing how to read, right. Another world is one in which we have done such a good job igniting the system, right? And enabling teachers to learn to do this and, you know, transforming teacher preparation programs in order to ensure that those teachers are stepping into classrooms knowing how to do this. And you have a body of educators in this country, all of whom are teaching kids to read this way, such that we’ve done our job, and we don’t need to exist anymore. And then I am spending my time, I don’t know, I’ll go back into the classroom, I’ll be a kindergarten or first grade teacher in a school teaching this way, right? Which is kind of a crazy thing to think about that I want to do such a good job teaching kids to read and building and scaling this company and transforming education that my company doesn’t even need to exist. We could sunset it because we did the thing that we wanted and needed to do, and we did it really well.”