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¡Todos a leer! Marking National Reading Month with K-3 Reading in Puerto Rico

March is National Reading Month, a month-long spotlight on the joy of reading and the importance of developing strong readers and writers.  

At Flamboyan Foundation, we couldn’t be more excited about celebrating the power of reading and literacy all year long. You may know about our work fostering REAL Family Engagement in Washington, DC and across the nation, but did you know we also work to champion reading in Puerto Rico?  

Reading proficiently by third grade is the bedrock of future academic success. Yet in Puerto Rico, nearly half of third-grade public school students aren’t meeting native Spanish proficiency levels on standardized tests – a gap that’s only gotten wider since the disasters of Hurricane Maria in 2017 and the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why one of our key goals is that by 2030, all K-3 students in Puerto Rico will be reading on grade level in Spanish. 

For Jessica González, Senior Director of K-3 Reading, this goal is central to the revitalization of Puerto Rico. “I have worked in a variety of educational environments where I have seen the differences in access to resources and equitable education. As an early childhood educator and specialist in reading education, I recognize our need as a country to prioritize reading for the academic success and holistic development of Puerto Rican children,” she said. “It is essential to me that we provide opportunities that encourage a love of reading and learning from an early age.”

At Flamboyan, we are guided by listening to and learning from the people directly affected by the challenges we seek to address. We then incorporate what we’ve learned on the ground with what we know from rigorous academic research. In Puerto Rico, that means working in collaboration with educators, school directors, administrators, government partners, and researchers on the Essential Practices for Literacy Instruction – a set of practices for effective teaching of reading and writing that centers the interests, strengths, and capabilities of children, and supports their growth as readers with instructional strategies that slowly introduce complexity and independence and foster a love of reading. These practices, developed with experts and refined in classrooms on the island, lay out what effective teaching of reading and writing in early grades looks like.  

We know we will not be successful if we work alone. That’s why we developed ¡Todos a leer!, a roadmap for improving literacy for the youngest Puerto Ricans.  

“The Todos a leer roadmap is very valuable for our country because it offers the essential practices aimed at educators and school organizations to ensure that students develop the skills necessary to read and understand what they read,” said Ms. González. “Additionally, it promotes the participation of families, communities, and other sectors related to the development and well-being of children, aspects that I consider essential to guarantee high-quality education for all. 

As part of the Todos a leer roadmap, Flamboyan has partnered with other youth-serving organizations in Puerto Rico to deeply embed the Essential Practices in their programs to encourage joyful reading and writing in all students. We’ve worked collaboratively with the Department of Education to provide professional development for educators in strong literacy instruction. And we’ve developed family-friendly resources for parents and caregivers to read with their children and inspire a love of books. We also know that how reading is taught is influenced by macro-level policies and practices, so we’ve advocated for stronger policies around the teaching of reading strategies to early educators.  

We are committed to ensuring every child in Puerto Rico can read joyfully and well by third grade – our students deserve no less. Together, we can give students the strong start they need to thrive!