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Global Reading Network Event Spotlights the Impacts of Reading/Literacy


Approximately 60 people attended a panel discussion on October 13 featuring noted education experts Dr. Harry Patrinos of the World Bank and Dr. Luis Crouch of RTI International. The event, “New Evidence on the Impacts of Reading/Literacy: A Discussion with the Members of the Global Reading Network Community of Practice,” was hosted by the Global Reading Network in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Dr. Jean-Marc Bernard of the Global Partnership for Education moderated.

Reading within Reach/Global Reading Network Project Director Jennifer Gerst brought greetings and introduced the speakers and moderator. “There’s a lot of work we need to do to effectively convey the cost-effectiveness of our interventions,” Gerst said.

Both panelists examined the evidence on public and private returns to increasing and sustaining investments in literacy skills, including productivity and growth benefits to business and the economy. Both emphasized the importance of effective early grade reading education.

“We have a challenge to make sure children get into school but an even greater challenge to make sure they are learning,” said Patrinos, Practice Manager for the East Asia and Pacific Region of the World Bank’s Education Global Practice. He outlined the key elements of effective early grade reading interventions, all of which revolve around providing educators with training and instructional guidelines for teaching literacy:

·         evidence-based, context-appropriate curricula,

·         training and tools for student assessment,

·         simplified instructional content to focus on the basics,

·         follow-up support for teachers, and

·         supplementary instructional and reading materials.

Patrinos concluded by noting, “We need universal early reading to make public investments in post-basic education pay off.” He drew information for his presentation from a variety of sources, including the 2017 policy report “The Case for Investment in Early Grade Reading.” The report was written by Sean Kelly and Jimmy Graham and published by Georgetown University and the World Bank.

Dr. Luis A. Crouch, Chief Technical Officer with RTI’s International Development Group, explained that investments in global education and literacy are important to the U.S. economy and national security because they affect countries’ potential as trade partners, their political and social stability, and their migration and labor relationships. “Education is all of a whole with trade, migration and stability,” he said.

Crouch noted that reading comprehension is ranked high in importance in most of the fast-growing sectors of the Asian economy and added that it is vital to focus on early grade learning. “Education is extremely path-dependent,” he said. “What happens early makes possible, or precludes, what happens later.” Crouch drew data from several sources, including the RTI report “All Children Reading—Asia Research Report: Investing in Early Grade Reading in Lower and Middle-Income Countries.”

Crouch concluded by noting the policy implications of our knowledge about early grade reading instruction:

1.       Investment in early literacy is key to educational development.

2.       Educational development aligns with key aims: political stability, trade, and growth.

3.       But many countries lag in ability to partner because many of their people lack education and especially foundational skills in reading.

4.       The United States has a track record in addressing these early literacy issues—more so than any other bilateral development agency—through USAID’s experience.

5.       But we have not achieved the desired levels of global literacy even though the evidence on how to do it is clear.

6.       The time to invest is now.

Following the presentations, Bernard addressed a few key points and opened the floor for a spirited and wide-ranging set of questions. Click here to access presentation materials from the event.