DESE: Mass Literacy for Families and Communities

DESE: Mass Literacy for Families and Communities

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recently shared the Mass Literacy for Families and Communities!  This new section of the Mass Literacy Guide has lots of early literacy information and resources specifically for families and communities. For questions, feel free to reach out to us at

Mass Literacy Guide

Kidney Table

Components of the Core Literacy Block

Skills for Early Reading

Skills for Early Reading

Reading Difficulties

Students Experiencing Reading Difficulties

System of Support

Leading a Multi-tiered System of Support

Pathway to Equity in Early Literacy

Pathway to Equity in Early Literacy

Pathway to Equity in Early Literacy

Mass Literacy for Families and Communities


Possible responses from your child's school

Sounds good!

Raises concerns…

Does my child get instruction and practice in the ability to hear the individual sounds within words (phonemic awareness)?

Yes, our lessons include daily practice with the sounds within words. Sometimes we work with new sounds and sometimes we review ones we learned before. We practice blending the sounds and then we practice breaking them apart.

We teach letters and sounds as they happen to come up in the books we use.

How do the texts within each unit build knowledge on a specific topic? Do they reflect varying cultures and perspectives?

Our curriculum includes texts by authors from different backgrounds grouped together in related sets. These text sets can be about topics such as the Civil Rights Movement, the water cycle, or amphibians. We use these texts to learn about each topic from many points of view.

Our curriculum focuses on certain skills like "finding the main idea" each week. The texts can be about any topic as our focus is on the skill.

Does the phonics instruction follow a clear and step-by-step scope and sequence?

We teach phonics (or the correspondence between letters and sounds) according to a purposeful and clearly laid out plan. Phonics lessons each day are brief, engaging, and active.

We teach letters and sounds as they happen to come up in the books we use.

How are students taught to read an unknown word?

We teach the students to look at each letter in a word and use phonic decoding to get the word off the page.

We recommend the students try using what they know based on the context or pictures to make a best guess.

How are students grouped for small-group reading practice?

We use the data from literacy assessments to plan additional instruction for students who need it, in the specific areas in which they need it (like phonics, vocabulary, or comprehension). Then we provide instruction to the small groups based upon these common needs.

Our program uses A–Z student reading levels (like M or J), and we group students together for guided reading based on how well they read overall.

Will my child get to read or hear grade-level complex text?

Each day, students listen to a read-aloud from an interesting, language-rich text that is connected to the topic we are learning about. We then discuss the ideas and vocabulary to build our knowledge and understanding of the text.

Students read books of their choice at independent reading time and/or for homework.

Does the curriculum include diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and identities to deepen learning?

We offer many texts written by and about people of color and people from diverse backgrounds. Our program uses texts to build knowledge and look at a topic from lots of different lenses. It also includes questions like whose voice is included in this story? Whose is missing?

Our lessons with text focus mostly on skill development like learning to identify the main idea.

How is writing taught?

First, I show the students what they will be doing in writing that day and how to do it, which is known as "modeling." Then, we practice together and finally students have time to practice on their own while I give individualized feedback to be sure they can accurately apply what they learned.

Our program has practice worksheets that describe what the writing prompt for the day is. Students are given time to individually think about and write up their response.

Additional resource: infographic  from the National Center on Improving Literacy with some additional evidence-based suggestions for talking about instruction with your child's teacher.