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The 2023 Children’s Mental Health Report: Evidence-Based Reading Instruction and Educational Equity

October 17, 2023

The Child Mind Institute Releases Comprehensive Overview of the Child Literacy Crisis 
Report Shines Light on Alarming State of Literacy Among U.S. Children and Advocates for Science-Based Reading Instruction

New York, NY – In recognition of World Mental Health Day, the Child Mind Institute, the leading independent nonprofit in children’s mental health, released the 2023 Children’s Mental Health Report: Evidence-Based Reading Instruction And Educational Equity. The report highlights the pressing need for improved reading proficiency among our nation’s youth and underscores the importance of science-based reading instruction to address the growing crisis. Reading, a fundamental skill essential for academic achievement, professional success, and societal participation, is currently challenging a significant number of children across the nation.

“Mental health and literacy are linked,” said Harold S. Koplewicz, MD, founding president and medical director of the Child Mind Institute. “Children who struggle with reading are at higher risk for mental health challenges, such as low self-esteem, anxiety, depression and behavioral problems. And with only 34% of fourth graders last year reading proficiently, we centered this year’s report around identifying solutions for schools and parents to adopt in hopes of increasing literacy and ensuring children’s mental wellbeing and academic success.”

The report’s analysis shows that, especially in the wake of the pandemic, reading instruction in the United States is not currently meeting children’s needs. It’s also clear that the greatest impacts of inadequate reading support are felt by the children, families, and communities that are already the most vulnerable. There remains an alarming disparity in literacy levels among various ethnicities and socioeconomic groups. While learning disorders pertaining to literacy, like dyslexia, are prevalent across all demographics, only 17% of Black students, 18% of American Indian/Alaska Native students, and 21% of Hispanic students demonstrated proficiency in reading, compared to 42% of white students.

“Science-based reading instruction is the proven solution to get children from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn’,” said Laura Phillips, PsyD, ABPdN is the senior director and a senior neuropsychologist in the Learning and Development Center at the Child Mind Institute. “Most children benefit from explicit, systematic reading instruction. Neuroimaging shows that we can literally reshape the system the brain uses for reading by employing systematic phonics instruction, which is a step-by-step approach for teaching letter-sound relationships.”

Systematic phonics instruction entails learning to recognize the most common and consistent letter-sound patterns and working towards more difficult and less consistent sounds. This helps with word identification, building up sight-word vocabularies, and promoting fluent reading. It is most often discussed in relation to young children who are first learning to read, however, it works with older kids as well, who did not develop strong reading skills.

Numerous states, including Mississippi, New York, and California, are working to align their education systems with the scientifically proven strategies to improve reading outcomes. Mississippi’s Literacy-Based Promotion Act has led to consistent improvements in fourth-grade reading scores since its enactment.

Moreover, the Child Mind Institute calls for advocacy efforts at the state, local, and school administration levels to promote science-based reading instruction and expanded funding for professional development and classroom materials. Parents and educators can advocate for administrations to adopt systematic phonics instruction. And Pediatricians can recommend early screening for language development and reading skills to ensure early intervention for children in need.

The Child Mind Institute will be hosting a webinar on Tuesday October 17th, which will feature a discussion between the Child Mind Institute’s Laura Phillips, Jennifer Louie, Matthew Cruger, as well as Nanci Bell, Co-Founder and Director of Lindamood-Bell® Learning Processes, an organization dedicated to enhancing learning for all people, who will be moderating.

The Child Mind Institute is committed to promoting evidence-based reading instruction and ensuring every child has the opportunity to unlock the door to a healthy mind, and a thriving future. For more information, visit to download the full 2023 Child Mind Institute Children’s Mental Health Report with the best ways to teach children to read, and practical resources that parents and educators can use to support struggling readers.

About the Children’s Mental Health Report
The Child Mind Institute’s annual Children’s Mental Health Report brings together thought-provoking, incisive and practical information on child and adolescent mental health care, based on reliable studies and emerging research. Each year the Report takes on a new focus in children’s mental health; the goal is to spark conversations from kitchen tables to the halls of Congress and promote effective solutions.

About the Child Mind Institute
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The Child Mind Institute is dedicated to transforming the lives of children and families struggling with mental health and learning disorders by giving them the help they need. We’ve become the leading independent nonprofit in children’s mental health by providing gold-standard evidence-based care, delivering educational resources to millions of families each year, training educators in underserved communities, and developing tomorrow’s breakthrough treatments. Learn more at

For press questions, contact our press team at or our media officer at

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