Key Findings: Focus on Literacy

Educators & the Importance of Reading

There is no debate among teachers and principals: access to books and time for reading are important for their students’ learning. To promote literacy, educators employ a variety of strategies, many of which differ by grade, both inside and outside the classroom.


  • The overwhelming majority of teachers and principals agree that “providing year-round access to books at home is important to enhancing student achievement” (96%) and that “students should have time during the school day to read a book of their choice independently” (94%).
  • In school, teachers are most likely to promote reading by talking with their students about literacy and the books they read, as well as encouraging use of the school library.


  • Outside of school, teachers are most likely to encourage summer reading and make books available to take home during the year. Principals are more likely than teachers to host or participate in a book fair and make books available for students over the summer.


  • Each activity to promote reading among students is more likely to occur in elementary schools and many are more likely to occur in high-poverty schools.

Reading & the Home-to-School Connection

Most educators believe that encouraging reading at home is important for family engagement, yet many believe this encouragement is not happening enough and that access to books at home is not adequate. To support families, educators agree that schools need to play a role in providing access to books at home, but need more robust classroom libraries to accomplish this.


  • Seven in 10 educators (69%) say encouraging reading at home is among the most important things they do to help families be engaged with children’s learning, yet only 51% say this is happening to the degree it should.
  • About half of educators (46%) say their students do not have adequate access to fiction or nonfiction books at home. This varies by school poverty level with 69% of educators in high-poverty schools vs. 20% of educators in low-poverty schools saying the same.
  • Nine in 10 educators (91%) agree that schools play an important role in expanding access to books at home and educators in elementary schools are most likely to strongly agree.
  • Many teachers’ classroom libraries contain more than 150 books (41%), but 31% have fewer than 50 books to serve their students during the school year.
  • Among all classroom libraries, relevancy may be lacking. Regardless of classroom library size, most educators are in need of culturally relevant titles (54%), books published in the last 3–5 years (51%), multiple copies of popular titles (48%), high-interest, low-reading-level books (48%), and magazines (48%).
  • Nearly four in 10 teachers (37%) cannot update their libraries more than every couple of years, if ever.

Reading in School

Teachers and principals have observed that independent reading offers many benefits to students, especially increased skills and engagement; however, educators face barriers when trying to allocate time to independent reading, even as many wish it occurred more often.


  • While 77% of teachers set time aside for independent reading/read aloud, only 36% do this every school day. When this occurs, students spend 22 minutes on average engaging in independent reading/read aloud.
  • Nearly two in three teachers (63%) wish independent reading/read aloud time occurred more often, and these teachers cite demands of the curriculum as the primary barrier to preventing independent reading from occurring more frequently (90%).
  • The overwhelming majority of teachers (91%) prefer to use a combination of engaging print and digital resources for instruction rather than a basal textbook, and 97% of principals share this preference.
  • Four in ten principals (39%) report not having a full-time school librarian, and 27% of schools are only able to add books to their libraries once a year or less often.

Summer Reading

Educators encourage summer reading among students to help them improve their literacy skills over the summer break, with the public library serving as a critical resource for students to access books while school is out.


  • More than six in 10 educators (64%) promote literacy among students by encouraging summer reading—particularly those in elementary schools (77% vs. 53% and 43% in middle and high schools, respectively).
  • Educators say the public library is the number one source of access to books for kids over the summer (77%). Additional sources, though less frequently cited, include families purchasing books for their children (40%), teachers providing books to take home (22%), and schools and districts providing books to take home (17%).