A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

A Compact for Reading - February 1999
A Compact for Reading
Committing to Improvement

Findings from the U.S. Department of Education's Prospects Study (1993) reveal that students in schools with Compacts in place perform better than children in similar schools without them because of greater reinforcement of learning at home. Furthermore, effects of the Compact on student learning were stronger than effects from other forms of school-home interactions.

Why a Compact for Reading? Success in helping many more children read well often depends upon on a partnership among families, principals, teachers, and students. A Compact for Reading is a written agreement among these partners that describes how each partner can help improve the reading and other language arts skills of children from kindergarten through third-grade, including those with disabilities and with limited English proficiency. 1 Tutors and other community members can also be partners in a Compact for Reading.

Research shows that some 38 percent of fourth-graders in America cannot read at the basic level of proficiency. Furthermore, reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) have remained basically flat for 30 years (NAEP, 1998). Although there has been some improvement between 1994 and 1998 (NAEP,1998), disadvantaged and minority students have the greatest difficulty with reading. In high-poverty schools, 84 percent of fourth-grade students do not read at the basic level of proficiency (NAEP,1996). In addition, some high-poverty students lose as much as three to four months of academic progress over the summer while their higher-income peers are gaining at least a month of progress.

We know from the comprehensive report of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children (1998), that we have enough research right now to be able to turn these statistics around if we put our best research into practice. We can help children learn to read who have not read before, and we can increase significantly the proficiency of children who already know how to read.

The NAS report not only describes what works in a school environment for reading instruction, but it plainly shows that family members--mothers, fathers, grandparents, older sisters and brothers--play a major role in helping children learn to read and in improving their reading ability.

Therefore, if families:

Family involvement is such a strong predictor of reading and other academic success that Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)--an Act that supports local efforts to help children in high-poverty communities meet challenging standards--includes provisions for the development of a family-school compact. Every school that receives Title I, Part A, funds must develop a family-school compact that describes the responsibilities of families and schools in helping children reach high academic standards.

This Compact for Reading Guide and the School-Home Links Reading Kit form Volume II in the series of Compact guides from the Family Involvement Partnership for Learning at the U.S. Department of Education.

The Compact for Reading Guide walks school communities, serving children in kindergarten through third-grade through the process of forming a family-school compact, as one way to help meet the requirements of Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in these schools. The Guide can be used as a stand-alone manual to help partners in your school community form a Compact (see the example following), and to identify and make a full range of commitments to improve the reading and other language arts skills of children from kindergarten through the third grade. Or the Guide can be used with Volume I of this series, the Compact for Learning, to focus attention on literacy within an overall plan to improve learning through family-school partnerships. This Guide is not intended to add to existing requirements, but rather to be a helpful guide to forming compacts for reading.

The companion School-Home Links Reading Kit contains around 400 activities that teachers may use as one way to encourage home support of school reading activities for children in kindergarten through the third-grade. Each School-Home Reading Links activity helps to develop skills that correspond to the National Academy of Sciences' "Accomplishments in Reading" for children from kindergarten through third grade (see Appendix A). These School-Home Links may be sent home three to four times a week. A simple key at the bottom of each page provides the appropriate grade for each activity, as well as the type of reading accomplishment each activity supports.

The School-Home Links Reading Kit includes School-Home Links and Book Links. The School-Home Links are take-home activities that allow practice in reading across a range of skill areas. The Book Links are activities teachers can use to support the reading and analysis of "take-home" books. Through the Book Links component, families are encouraged to read to and with their children every night for 30 minutes, in addition to working with their children on developing skills associated with reading books. (Book Links are described more fully in the discussion of Step 3 below.)

All Compact for Reading products are also available through linkages on the U.S. Department of Education Web site (http://www.ed.gov/pubs/CompactforReading/) and in hard copy from the Department's toll-free publications number (1-877-576-7734 or 1-800-USA-LEARN), as long as supplies last.

Key Players and Their Roles

Everyone has a role in the compact, and everyone benefits from the partnerships formed when compacts are developed.

Through the Compact for Reading:

 Students are provided with many opportunities to practice and improve their reading skills, by families, learning partners, and teachers in schools.
 Teachers and school administrators get support for in-school reading activities, by motivating families and other learning partners in the community to extend these activities at home for children who most need help in reading. They can clearly describe what the school expects of students to families, students, and the community.
 Families will find out what is expected from the schools to read well, and what they can do to help their children succeed. For families who cannot come to the school, the Compact explains how they can help at home. Regardless of their own reading skills, parents have opportunities every day to build on the learning that takes place at school. Reading just 30 minutes a day to or with their child, for example, significantly increases the child's reading ability.
 Tutors and other learning partners in the community are invited to volunteer time to read to and with children, and support teachers and families by engaging children in extended-learning activities, including the School-Home Links.

Sample Compact for Reading


1While special assistance may be needed to serve limited- English-proficient students and students with disabilities, the vast majority of these students are not severely impaired, and can be included with minimal accommodations.

[Foreword]  Go to Table of Contents  [The Compact's Five-Step Process]