Governor Youngkin has taken a dramatic step in helping the Virginia education system for children, and helping growing concern inside the classroom, lagging reading rates.

Youngkin ceremonially signed the bipartisan effort, which was sponsored by Delegate Carrie Coyner, R-Hopewell, and Senate President pro tempore, Senator Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, empowers parents and students with a transformational focus on early childhood literacy. When writing the act, Delegate Carrie Coyner, one of the bills patrons said it was in response to a noticeable downtrend in reading proficiency across much of Virginia’s early education tests:

“We have a reading crisis on our hands as recently released data from the Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS) assessment, which identifies students in grades K-2 who are at risk for reading difficulties, reveals our children’s reading peril. The data shows that even before the pandemic too many children in Virginia were failing to reach reading benchmarks, and that children of color, children with disabilities, and children living in poverty were disproportionately performing below benchmark.”

As Youngkin signed the act into law, he sang the bill’s praises as a real step in the right direction to “ensure above all else that every student, no matter their zip code, family income, or background, learns to read leveraging the most effective, evidence-based methods.”

“The most important thing we can do, as parents, as educators, and as a community, is ensure our children learn to read, so that they can read to learn. Today is a meaningful bipartisan step forward to give our students the tools they need to succeed not only in the classroom, but in life,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “We have a real challenge on our hands when it comes to childhood literacy. Over the last few years, Virginia has seen a decrease in reading proficiency and the pandemic has magnified this challenge facing families, students, and educators…For too long, we have condemned generations of children to a diminished future because we failed to teach them to read, to read. This law changes that.”

As states in the law, The Virginia Literacy Act, HB 319 & SB 616, ensures that teachers are trained in the science of reading, supported by science-driven professional development, and requires school systems to provide all students with instruction, screening, and monitoring of their early reading progress, with those results shared with parents. Working with parents, schools will be required to create an individualized reading plan for each student identified to have a reading deficiency. The bill also requires that school systems provide resources to support literacy development at home.

The new law goes into effect July 1 to help with the upcoming school year.