What is Literacy?

Literacy is the ability to read, write, speak, and listen effectively. These skills enable students to express themselves clearly, listen to others, gain knowledge, and build an understanding of the world around us.

What Does Literacy Instruction Look Like?

While each school selects its own literacy curriculum, there are common features in every New York City Public School classroom. These include books that help students apply new reading skills in context and units of study that teachers use for reading and writing instruction. 

Schools have a focused, intentional sequence of lessons for both reading and writing for the school year so that the instruction is planned thoughtfully. Lessons include:

  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Reading and writing
  • Opportunities for thinking
  • Rich discussion with peers in pairs or in small groups

Teachers model good questioning and encourage students to ask questions about what they read and learn. Students receive instruction on specific strategies to help them read difficult text, and practice using those strategies on a variety of reading passages, both fiction and nonfiction. These texts are selected to meaningfully reflect the rich cultural and ethnic diversity in our schools. There are also opportunities for daily independent reading and writing guided by the classroom teacher, and school libraries offer opportunities for further inquiry and research projects. Finally, examples of student work applying what they have learned to their research, analysis, and writing are displayed in classrooms and hallways so everyone can learn from each other's efforts.

Some of the additional features you can expect to see in your child’s school are the following:

In Elementary Grades

  • A strong early reading and writing program in kindergarten, first, and second grade that includes instruction in the five fundamentals of reading:
    • Phonics: relationships between the letters of written language and the sounds of spoken language.
    • Phonemic awareness: the ability to understand that spoken words are made up of individual sounds.
    • Vocabulary: the meaning or definition of words.
    • Fluency: the ability to read accurately with reasonable speed and expression.
    • Comprehension: the ability to understand and interpret what is read.
  • A literacy program that has a predictable format so that students understand the goal of each lesson
  • Teachers leading daily read-alouds using high-quality, culturally diverse, age-appropriate books
  • Writing instruction that includes daily opportunities to practice skills such as handwriting, word choice, sentence structure, and punctuation in varied genres
  • Classrooms with libraries offering a wide range of grade-appropriate books across many topics and reading levels
  • A reading coach who supports early reading acquisition in kindergarten, first, and second grade
  • Extra support in focused, small group settings for students who are struggling in reading and writing

In Secondary Grades (Middle and High School)

  • As in lower grades, a literacy program that has a predictable format so that students understand the goal of each lesson
  • Literacy content designed to lead to college and career readiness
  • Opportunities for daily independent reading and writing guided by the teacher
  • Opportunities to interpret and analyze texts that are culturally diverse and motivating, both individually and with peers
  • Exposure to a wide range of books for students to choose from
  • Programs in place for students who need additional support in reading and writing

NYC Reads

Beginning in the 2023–24 school year, we will be launching an initiative called NYC Reads. The goal is to ensure that all New York City students become strong readers, which is the single most important skill required for educational, career, and lifetime success. Based on extensive research, NYC Reads will ensure that pre-K and elementary school students receive the most effective reading instruction materials and methods.

Phasing in over two years, NYC Reads will require all early childhood education classrooms to adopt a single, uniform curriculum called The Creative Curriculum, while K-5 schools will use one of three pre-approved, phonics-based reading curricula that have proven to be effective. The new literacy program will be implemented in 15 community school districts in 2023-24, with all districts adopting it by the following school year.

For more information about NYC Reads, and to learn about the curriculum options that districts can choose from, please visit our NYC Reads webpage.

Literacy Assessments

To ensure our students become strong and thriving readers, our educators use assessment data to help them make instructional decisions that will best meet the needs of their students. All core curriculum programs will provide both formative and summative curriculum-based assessments.

  • Formative assessments monitor students learning so that educators can identify their strengths and weaknesses, and adapt their instructional practices accordingly.
  • Summative Assessments evaluate student learning at the end of an instructional unit.

Furthermore, all students will be administered a universal screener, three times per year. Screener options include:

  • Acadience Reading: required for students in grades K–2; available for students in grades K–5
  • MAP Growth: approved for students in grades 3–10; approved for Spanish reading for students in grades K–8
  • iReady Reading: approved for students in grades 3–10
  • Degrees of Reading Power: approved for students in grades 3-10

The purpose of these screeners is to identify students who are having difficulties with reading, so that additional supports can be made available.

Build Reading and Writing Skills at Home

Support and strengthen your child's growing literacy skills outside of the classroom to help them become strong and confident readers! Visit our Literacy Resources for Families webpage for activity guides, printable flashcards, reading games, suggested reading lists, free online resources, and more.