Press Releases

Houlahan: Childhood Literacy Is Fundamental

Reps. Houlahan, Westerman, Brownley and Fitzpatrick Introduce Bipartisan READ Act to Improve Literacy Rates Across the Country

WASHINGTON – Today, Representative Chrissy Houlahan introduced the bipartisan READ Act with Reps. Bruce Westerman (R-AR), Julia Brownley (D-CA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA). More than 30 million adults in the United States cannot read or write above a third-grade level. Pennsylvania has been a pioneer in addressing the literacy crisis. In 2014, the Commonwealth launched its Dyslexia Screening and Early Literacy Intervention Pilot Program, which established a three-year early literacy intervention and dyslexia pilot program using evidence-based screening, evidence-based instruction, and intervention for students found to be at risk for early reading deficiencies and dyslexia. The bipartisan READ Act creates a grant program to allow other states to capitalize on what we have learned about how to best support teachers in instructing students on how to read.


“The need for this legislation during this COVID crisis cannot be overstated,” said Houlahan. “We are seeing early childhood literacy rates drop in PA and across the country. For years, the data has been clear: ‘A student who can’t read on grade level by 3rd grade is four times less likely to graduate by age 19 than a child who does read proficiently by that time.’ As we work to get kids safely back in school, one of our first priorities needs to be addressing any loss of learning, particularly around literacy. What people must remember is that without literacy, learning other subjects becomes nearly impossible. Prior to serving in Congress, I was a chemistry teacher in north Philadelphia to amazingly engaging 11th grade students. Chemistry is already a complicated subject, but it’s made all the more difficult if you are reading at a 3rd or 4th grade level, as many of my students were. And the implications stretch beyond education. Over $200 million in health care costs is linked to illiteracy each year: when individuals can’t understand their prescription bottle, how can we expect them to stay healthy? We need aggressive action to combat the literacy crisis in our country, and as someone with a background in early childhood literacy, I’m proud to lead the charge. Our READ Act makes clear that we’re fighting to make sure every child learns how to read, and consequently, can find success in their education and livelihoods.”


“As co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Dyslexia Caucus, preparing educators by supporting science-based instruction is one of my top priorities,” said Rep. Westerman, Co-Chair of the Congressional Dyslexia Caucus. “The bipartisan READ Act focuses on early learning intervention and helps identify those with reading disabilities. Arkansas and Pennsylvania have set the example for how to properly implement reading curriculum into our schools, rendering great results. The federal grant program created by the READ Act will allow other states to adopt these programs and help end illiteracy in America. I am proud to work with my friends across the aisle on this important step forward for those struggling with dyslexia.”


“I first entered public service as a way to advocate for a better education for my daughter, who has dyslexia, and for other students with special needs,” said Congresswoman Julia Brownley, Co-Chair of the Congressional Dyslexia Caucus. “As co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Dyslexia Caucus, I know that childhood literacy is an essential component of an all-encompassing educational experience, and we must do everything we can to ensure that our schools have the resources necessary to identify gaps in literacy and intervene early for students who are struggling. In this way, we can ensure that all children, regardless of their learning ability, have equitable footing in their education. I’m pleased to join Reps. Houlahan, Westerman, and Fitzpatrick in introducing this legislation to help children with dyslexia and other literacy limitations achieve academic success.”


“Reading is a critical skill that can make all the difference in one’s life, and with more than 30 million adults in the United States who cannot read or write above a third-grade level, we must do more to ensure that every child and adult is literate. Pennsylvania has been a pioneer in addressing this literacy crisis; in 2014, Pennsylvania launched its Dyslexia Screening and Early Literacy Intervention Pilot Program, establishing a three-year early literacy intervention and dyslexia pilot program that uses evidence-based screening, instruction, and intervention for at-risk students. The READ Act is modeled after PA’s pilot program and will further build on these ideas by creating a grant program that enables states to provide teachers with the necessary tools to detect and support early reading deficiencies and dyslexia,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “I am proud to join my colleagues on this bipartisan bill that will help ensure every student of our next generation and beyond can reach their full potential.”


“It is exciting to see that Pennsylvania’s legislation is now being recognized as a national model,” said Daphne Uliana, a mother of three dyslexic children, who was one of the advocates who helped lead the effort get Pennsylvania’s law passed. “Pennsylvania’s pilot program has been a great success, because it provides the very real opportunity for all children to learn to read. I’m grateful to Rep. Houlahan’s leadership on this crucial issue as we all work towards a higher literacy among our country’s children.”

Full text of the READ Act can be found here.

The organizations endorsing the READ Act include Learning Disabilities of America, Literacy How, Amplify, TeachPlus and Academic Language Therapy Association (ALTA).

Houlahan is an Air Force veteran, an engineer, a serial entrepreneur, an educator and a nonprofit leader. She represents Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District, which encompasses Chester County and southern Berks County. She serves on the House Armed Services Committee, the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Small Business Committee.