Changing the way reading is taught in the state is the focus of Excellent Public Schools Act of 2021, which was filed in the state Senate Monday, March 29.

President Pro Tem of the state Senate Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), one of the bill’s primary sponsors, held a press conference along with North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt on Monday to explain the need for and purpose of the bill.

At the press conference Berger said, “In this bill you’re going to see a lot about what is called the science of reading.”

Berger explained that one of the main points of the science of reading is teaching reading based on phonics.

The bill would use federal coronavirus relief dollars to train preK-5 teachers on the science of reading.

Berger said that along with a focus on phonics, the bill also stresses having individual reading plans for students who are struggling with literacy.

The bill requires the State Board of Education to use the science of reading in developing new instruction standards.

Truitt said, “Early literacy instruction is the guiding force behind why I wanted to run for this position and the work we are doing in the department right now.”

Truitt said that testing data in the state showed that, “Two-thirds of 8th graders do not read proficiently when they enter high school.”

She added that unfortunately that is the average in the United States.

Truitt said that the current method used to teach reading the “look and say” method was not based on research, but that three-fourths of the teachers in the US are currently using some variation of this method.

Truitt said, “The science of reading is not a program it is a body of research that tells us how the brain learns to read.  We are hardwired to learn how to speak.  We are not hardwired to learn how to read.”

About learning to read, she added, “It is not a visual activity.  It is a language activity and that is why we have to get back to a phonics based approach of early literacy instruction.”

Truitt also noted that the state was fully funding training teachers in this method of reading instruction.