Wednesday, October 05, 2022

Literacy Statistics from—What the Research Says


What is often confused as an issue of kids not having sufficient vocabulary is really a literacy issue that tracks back to them not having books that they own in their homes, reading aloud practices, getting read to earlier, having access to libraries and reading opportunities, as well as characters in fiction or in real life who reflect them.

I love how country singer, Dolly Parton's Imagination Library initiative that she founded in 1995 addresses these exact disparities of children having access to books. Specifically, it is a "book gifting program that mails free, high-quality books to children from birth to age five, no matter their family’s income." 

Thanks, Dolly. Such beautiful, empowering work and philanthropy.

To this, I would add that emergent bilingual students—otherwise referred to as, "English language learners"—are the ones often deemed as either not having sufficient vocabulary or being able to read. Well, such children do have sufficient vocabulary in their own home language such that what they need is well-staffed, well-designed bilingual education classrooms and programs with print-rich, culturally relevant curriculum and instruction in English and Spanish—or the child's other home language—that motivate them to become great readers. 

Expressed differently, what we need is Ethnic Studies in early childhood education which is exactly what we do at our Academia Cuauhtli Saturday school here in Austin, Texas.

One of our district's bilingual educator leaders who is also pursuing a doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction at UT, Patricia Nuñez adds in a recent Tweet that students are always ready for content instruction. It's not like you have to teach them English first before they can get enriching content. This kind of deficit thinking is so wrong-headed and injurious.

On the subject of racial equity with children and youth, do check out another another great 2020 resource by Paula Johnson at IDRA that I've posted to this blog titled, "Early Childhood Resources that explore Race Equity with Young Learners from Paula Johnson at IDRA."

I have told my grandchildren since birth, "readers are leaders," something I believe to be generally true. It at least encourages them. And they both LOVE to read. 

Sí se Puede!

-Angela Valenzuela


 Literacy Statistics from

  • BookSpring’s Programs are Grounded in Theory and Research

A wealth of research provides descriptions of widespread reading failure, as well as promising evidence for the effectiveness of programs like those of of BookSpring, including books-for-ownership programs; reading aloud practices; anticipatory guidance from doctors; parent engagement outreach; and family enrichment events that motivate young children to become readers and learners for life.  Below are some selected references from credible sources with summaries of their research findings.  BookSpring has also developed a theory of change based on research and practice.  We aim to align all our programs and services around this basic model. Also check our Central Texas Reading Survey for recent localized data on reading behaviors, attitudes, and number of books in the home.  The good news is we have the knowledge and tools to fix this problem; we need your help of time and resources to reach the children in most need of assistance in the early years, when interventions can make the most difference.

The Problems of Low Literacy:

  • Latino representation in new children’s books has increased — to 6% in 2020 — but still falls well short of matching the proportion of Latino kids living in the United States, which is 26%. The Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count Data Center (2020). 
  • Nationally, only 35% of public school students were at or above Proficient in grade 4 reading. In Texas, it’s only 25%. National Assessment of Educational Progress. (2017).  U.S. Department of Education, Washington, DC.
  • Across the nation only 47.8% of children between birth and five years are read to every day by their parents or other family members. Russ S, Perez V, Garro N, Klass P, Kuo AA, Gershun M, Halfon N, & Zuckerman B. (2007). Reading across the nation: A chartbook. Reach Out and Read National Center, Boston, MA.
  • 37% of children arrive at kindergarten without the skills necessary for lifetime learning. Landry, S. H. (2005). Effective early childhood programs: Turning knowledge into action. Houston, TX: University of Texas, Health Science Center at Houston.
  • Children from economically disadvantaged homes may know only one or two letters of the alphabet when entering kindergarten, while children in the middle class will know all 26. Lee, V. E. & Burkam, D. T. (2002). Inequality at the starting gate: Social background differences in achievement as children begin school. Economic Policy Institute, Washington, DC.
  • 50% of youth with a history of substance abuse have reading problems. Bock, R. (1998). Why Children Succeed or Fail at Reading. Research from NICHD’s Program in Learning Disabilities. U.S. Department of Education, NCES, Washington, DC.
  • 50% of children from low-income communities start first grade up to two years behind their peers. Brizius, J. A., & Foster S. A. (1993). Generation to generation: Realizing the promise of family literacy. High/Scope Press.

The Solutions of Early Literacy Interventions:

  • Book giveaway programs promote children’s home literacy environment which results in more interest in reading and higher reading scores during early education. de Bondt, M., Willenberg, I. A., & Bus, A. G. (2020). Do book giveaway programs promote the home literacy environment and children’s literacy-related behavior and skills? Review of Educational Research90(3), 349-375.
  • Higher reading exposure was 95% positively correlated with a “hub” region supporting semantic language processing in the brain, controlling for household income. Hutton, J. S., Horowitz-Kraus, T., Mendelsohn, A. L., DeWitt, T., & Holland, S. K. (2015). Home reading environment and brain activation in preschool children listening to stories. Pediatrics, 136(3), 466-478.
  • Motivation to read can be both intrinsic and extrinsic, and the strength of interest in (or love of) reading can be measured from low to high.  More intrinsic motivation to read is positively correlated with more interest in reading in children. Katranci, M. (2015). Book reading motivation scale: Reliability and validity study. Educational Research and Reviews10(3), 300.
  • Children growing up in homes with at least 20 books get 3 more years of schooling than children from bookless homes, independent of their parents’ education, occupation, and class. Evans, M. D., Kelley, J., Sikora, J., & Treiman, D. J. (2010). Family scholarly culture and educational success: Books and schooling in 27 nations. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 28(2), 171-197.
  • By the age of 2, children who are read to regularly display greater language comprehension, larger vocabularies, and higher cognitive skills than their peers. Raikes, H., Pan, B.A., Luze, G.J., Tamis-LeMonda, C.S.,Brooks-Gunn, J., Constantine, J., Tarullo, L.B., Raikes, H.A., & Rodriguez, E. (2006). Mother-child bookreading in low-income families: Correlates and outcomes during the first three years of life. Child Development, 77(4).
  • Creating a steady stream of new, age-appropriate books has been shown to nearly triple interest in reading within months. Harris, L. (2003). An assessment of the impact of First Book’s northeast program.
  • Children who were read to at least three times a week by a family member were almost twice as likely to score in the top 25% in reading compared to children who were read to less than 3 times a week. Denton, K. & West, G.  (2002).  Children’s reading and mathematics achievement in kindergarten and first grade. U.S. Department of Education, NCES, Washington, DC.
  • Findings show higher-than-average scores among students who reported more types of reading material at home. Donahue, P. L., A. D. Finnegan, & N. L. Lutkus. (2001).  The Nation’s report card: Fourth grade reading 2001.  U.S. Department of Education, NCES, Washington, DC.
  • The most successful way to improve the reading achievement of low-income children is to increase their access to print. Newman, S., Brazelton, T. B., Zigler, E., Sherman, L. W., Bratton, W., Sanders, J., & Christeson, W. (2000). America’s Child Care Crisis: A Crime Prevention Tragedy.  U.S. Department of Education, ERIC, Washington, DC.

Empowerment Zone PODCAST with Dr. Ramona Houston, featuring Angela Valenzuela, Ph.D.—How Can Municipalities Produce Academic Success & Teacher Pipelines Within the Latino Community


Check out this podcast with Dr. Ramona Houston of the Empowerment Zone featuring our work here in Austin with respect to Academia Cuauhtli on Spotify. Here is the description:

Angela Valenzuela: Look to Academia Cuauhtli -

Providing educational support with identifiable teachers are important to the academic success of all students. In today’s episode Dr. Angela Valenzuela shares her work with Academia Cuauhtli (Nahuatl for "Eagle Academy”), a partnership model with the Austin Independent School District and the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center that supports the educational development of students and creates pathways into the teaching profession for bilingual and dual language educators. Listen and learn how the Academy incorporates culturally relevant teaching methods and uses bilingual educators to elevate academic achievement among Latino students.

Dr. Valenzuela is a professor at the University of Texas at Austin in both the Cultural Studies in Education Program within the Department of Curriculum & Instruction and the Educational Policy and Planning Program within the Department of Education Leadership and Policy, where she also serves as the director of the Texas Center for Education Policy. Dr. Valenzuela also founded and operates an education blog entitled, "Educational Equity, Politics, and Policy in Texas.” Originally from San Angelo, Texas, Dr. Valenzuela now makes Austin her home.

To learn more about Dr. Angela Valenzuela, her blog, and Academia Cuauhtli, visit

Thanks, Dr. Houston, for this wonderful opportunity to share a little bit about my life, political formation, and our work.

-Angela Valenzuela

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

Mexico to the Rescue!

A little humor goes a long way, too. 🤣

-Angela Valenzuela

Immigrant Workers Set to Play Pivotal Role in Florida’s Recovery–Despite Dehumanizing Anti-Immigrant Stunts from Gov. DeSantis

Immigrants definitely should not be subjected to dehumanizing stunts. We're good to also remember Hurricane Andrew back in 1992 when immigrants were brought in to help rebuild it. Let's also remember that immigrant workers helped build the Olympic Park in Georgia in preparation for the 1996 Olympics.  This article titled, "Spirit of International Unity: How Immigrant Workers Helped Create the 1996 Olympics." To be sure, immigrants' support and contributions to our country are significant and go a long way. Lamentably, however, cruelty goes even further as our current, toxic, anti-immigrant moment attests.

And how wrong-headed. We seem to never learn—or don't want to learn—about these significant stories. Instead of demonizing immigrants, let's hold on to that precious "Spirit of International Unity," and let's stop super-exploiting these black and brown "others," who don't want handouts, but rather to work—and in these cases, to offer a helping hand.

Angela Valenzuela

Immigrant Workers Set to Play Pivotal Role in Florida’s Recovery – Despite Dehumanizing Anti-Immigrant Stunts from Gov. DeSantis

Washington, DC – As Florida rebuilds from Hurricane Ian, immigrant workers – documented and undocumented – are an essential part of the recovery workforce. In the process, immigrant workers are exposing the lie at the heart of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and other Republicans’ efforts to demonize migrants and asylum seekers and portray them as threats instead of contributors.

The low levels of immigrants and refugees allowed into the U.S. is having an economic impact, slowing growth, and making problems of inflation and labor shortages harder to tackle. The essential role of immigrant workers was also demonstrated to the nation during the pandemic which saw immigrants and refugees, some of whom lacked legal status, play a vital role in health care, food supply and delivery and a range of other critical jobs. But in the area of hurricane and climate disaster recovery and reconstruction, immigrant workers play an outsized role. As Miriam Jordan wrote in a 2019 New York Times story

“The increased frequency and severity … [of extreme weather due to climate change has] given rise to a new recovery-and-reconstruction work force. It is overwhelmingly made up of immigrants.

Like the migrant farmworkers of yesteryear who followed the crops, the hurricane workers move from disaster to disaster. They descended on New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina; Houston after Harvey; North Carolina after Florence; Florida after Irma and Michael. And as the United States confronts more extreme weather caused by climate change, theirs has become a growth industry.”

The essential contributions of immigrant workers in the disaster recovery and broader economy is at odds with how Republicans’ portrayal throughout this year. Most notably, Ron DeSantis’ recent dehumanizing and transparently political stunt flying Venezuelans to Martha’s Vineyard flies in the face of recent news that Florida is now seeking to recruit migrant workers to help the state’s rebuilding and recovery. 

As the Daily Beast highlighted in a story titled, “Irony Meter Explodes as Migrants Lured TO Florida for Hurricane Ian Cleanup,” the “Migrants are reportedly being transported from New York City to Florida for work supporting cleanup efforts in the wake of Hurricane Ian—weeks after the governor put migrants on a flight to Martha’s Vineyard. Over the weekend, scores of Venezuelan migrants were boarding vans heading to the Sunshine State from a pickup point in Queens.”

According to Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice: 

“As it turns out, Florida needs immigrants after all, just like the rest of the country. With or without a hurricane, the economy is being starved of immigrants because our legal immigration and refugee systems are so narrow. But Florida, as it has before, is about to witness how critical immigrant workers are in a moment of crisis. When it comes to the mobile workforce that goes towards climate disasters and lends immediate help, immigrants, many of them undocumented, play a pivotal role. Without legal status and labor protections, many of the immigrants who will do the hard work of cleaning up Southwest Florida will be subject to exploitation and wage theft, adding insult and injury to their heroic and necessary work.

The best of America is on display when communities are in crisis and neighbors, friends and family are joined by hardworking specialists in cleaning up after disasters. It takes sacrifice, dedication and perseverance to recover and move forward. And yet, our politicians continue to mostly ignore the realities that drive the escalating damage and death caused by climate change and also fail year after year to address our out-of-date immigration system and laws that do not meet the moment.

It is in local communities standing shoulder to shoulder with immigrants, with and without official documentation, rolling up their sleeves to help rebuild the communities and country they call home that we see what America is all about, not in the political stunts, dangerous rhetoric and demonization of migrants that we are seeing from prominent Republicans in Florida and across the country.”

Monday, October 03, 2022

A Post-Gubernatorial Debate Reflection—Together with Data—on Texans' Shameful Lack of Access to Mental Health Care


I'm thinking about the Uvalde school shooting and last Friday's debate between gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke and Gov. Greg Abbott. You can view the entire debate here. Folks should know that when Beto said that Texas ranks at the bottom of the U.S. for mental health care access, he was correct. Abbott's lame response that we ranked 27th was not only not true but profoundly dishonest in light of real data provided in this 2022 report issued by Mental Health America where Texas appears at the bottom in practically every index that you can learn about and read for yourselves HERE

Relatedly, read the truth in this Business Insider story that Abbott denied in the debate regarding his cutting funding from mental health services to fund his flawed Operation Lone Star border immigration initiative that according to civil rights groups, is little more than a "state-funded 'shadow criminal legal system.'"

"Across the two years, more than $200 million was cut from the departments funds to go towards supporting the National Guard and efforts on the border, per the outlet. " (Al-Arshani, May 29, 2022)

In the debate, O'Rourke appropriately called out Operation Lone Star as a stunt. After all, our governor is "performing" governing while actually distracting us from a severe mental health care access crisis in our state together with other issues like the power grid, the environment, and funding schools and teachers in our state who are either considering leaving the profession or are actually departing (see Progress Texas, 2022).

For ease, I have condensed the Mental Health America report findings here. But first, take a look at how the MHA measures access with the acronym "AMI" meaning "a mental illness" and "MDE" meaning a "major depressive episode":

"ACCESS TO CARE RANKING. The Access Ranking indicates how much access to mental health care exists within a state. The access measures include access to insurance, access to treatment, quality and cost of insurance, access to special education, and workforce availability. A high Access Ranking (1-13) indicates that a state provides relatively more access to insurance and mental health treatment.

The 9 measures that make up the Access Ranking include:

  1.  Adults with AMI who Did Not Receive Treatment
  2.  Adults with AMI Reporting Unmet Need
  3. Adults with AMI who are Uninsured
  4.  Adults with Cognitive Disability who Could Not See a Doctor Due to Costs
  5.  Youth with MDE who Did Not Receive Mental Health Services*
  6.  Youth with Severe MDE who Received Some Consistent Treatment
  7.  Children with Private Insurance that Did Not Cover Mental or Emotional Problems
  8.  Students Identified with Emotional Disturbance for an Individualized Education Program
  9.  Mental Health Workforce Availability"

  • Adults with Ami Who Are Uninsured 2022—Texas ranks 51 (21,50%; n=759,000). 
  • Adults with Ami Who Did Not Receive Treatment 2022—Texas is ranks 46 (60.70%; n=2,148,000)
  • Adults with Ami Reporting Unmet Need 2022—Texas ranks 19 (24%; n=845,000)
  • Adults with Disability Who Could Not See a Doctor Due to Costs 2022—Texas ranks 51 (40.65%; n=954,935)
  • Youth with MDE Who Did Not Receive Mental Health Services 2022—Texas ranks 51 (73.10%; n=255,000)
  • Youth with Severe MDE Who Received Some Consistent Treatment 2022—Texas ranks 44 (19.20%; n=44,000)
  • Children with Private Insurance that Did Not Cover Mental or Emotional Problems 2022—Texas ranks 48 (13.80%; n=135,000)

I'm devastated, but glad I took a look. Do take a look for yourselves, as well. The numbers of folks not getting the help they need in our state are staggering.
These data are shocking and horribly upsetting as we ponder the incalculable suffering that tons of Texans are, and have been, experiencing. 
This is beyond shameful for a state as rich as ours, or for any state ranked at the bottom. After all, the purpose of government in a democracy should be to take care of its citizens. When it fails to do so, it's both derelict in its responsibilities and morally bankrupt.
Our task as voters it to voice our views at the ballot box.

-Angela Valenzuela
#Shameful #Uvalde #RememberUvalde #vote2022


Al-Arshani, S. (2022, May 29). Abbott blamed Texas school shooting on lack of mental health resources. But he reportedly cut more than $200 million from the department that handles them, Business Insider. Retrieved:

Mental Health America (2022) Access to Care Ranking 2022, Retrieved:

Progress Texas. (2022, August 17). As school starts, 70% of Texas teachers consider quitting. Retrieved:

Thursday, September 29, 2022

"Vouchers: The 'Lost Cause' Fight of Our Generation" by Jaime Puente


This historic perspective on vouchers by Jaime Puente published on the Every Texan blog is a must-read. We must push back vigorously against this white supremacist agenda that is poised to be a major issue in the coming 88th Texas Legislative Session in January, 2023.

-Angela Valenzuela 

Vouchers: The "Lost Cause" Fight of Our Generation