State Policy Network
Oklahoma Strengthens its Reading Law to Improve Literacy Rates  

Thanks in part to the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA), Oklahoma passed a law to improve reading scores for students in the Sooner State. The legislation, SB 362, or the Strong Readers Act, requires teachers to be trained in the science of reading. As OCPA president Jonathan Small explained, the science of reading refers to instructional methods, which include phonics, proven to help students read. 

SB 362 also prohibits Oklahoma teachers from using the discredited “three cueing” method to teach reading. The three cueing method is a model of teaching students to read that research has found does not work. In fact, the method is so discredited that 10 other states have banned the use of the three-cueing system. 

Learning to Read: The Foundation for a Student’s Educational Success 

Literacy is fundamental to learning and the foundation for personal and professional success. Unfortunately, many American children struggle to learn how to read. Oklahoma’s students are no exception, and have suffered from poor literacy rates over the years. In fact, in 2022 only 24% of Oklahoma’s fourth-grade students demonstrated proficiency in reading.  

OCPA Key to Advancing this Reform in the Sooner State  

The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a nonprofit policy organization in Oklahoma City, recognized this problem and launched a campaign to improve reading levels. 

In January 2024, OCPA published a policy brief, “A Call to Action: Changing the Trajectory of Reading in Oklahoma,” that outlined how to improve the reading levels of Oklahoma students by implementing the science of reading. The policy brief also explained how eliminating the three-cueing strategy can lead to better results.  

In April, OCPA launched a comprehensive, user-friendly website that provided parents with resources to help their children read. The website also included a link to the policy brief.  

OCPA then began a social-media awareness campaign to drive traffic to the site. In addition, the organization wrote several articles on phonics and literacy to perpetuate the conversation and highlight the benefits of the proposed legislation that would essentially mandate phonics.  

A Brighter Future in Sight for Millions of Oklahoma Children Thanks to this Reform  

OCPA’s efforts paid off at the end of the legislative session. On June 14, 2024, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed SB 362 into law, reforming the state’s reading law.  

In addition to OCPA, ExcelinEd also played a role in advancing this policy in Oklahoma. Thanks to their work, Oklahoma students will now develop the reading skills they need to do well in school and life.  

Patricia Levesque, Executive Director of ExcelinEd in Action, noted

“Passage of this legislation represents a significant commitment to ensuring every child can read at grade level and gains the foundational literacy skills needed for academic success. Oklahoma lawmakers have taken bold action to equip the state’s youngest learners with the tools and support they need to develop strong reading skills in the classroom and beyond.” 

Jonathan Small added: “Officials have long known phonics-based reading instruction is highly effective and puts kids on the path to educational success. That phonics will now be emphasized in Oklahoma schools is a big win.” 

Related Reading 

Free Market Friday: Phonics Push a Quiet Win of Session 
Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs 

Ban on ‘Three Cueing’ in Reading Nears Final Passage 
Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs  

A Renewed Focus on Reading Instruction 
Jonathan Small  

Oklahoma Leaders Pass Early Literacy Policies to Improve Reading Outcomes 

From Policy to Action: Why 8 States Banned Three-Cueing from K-3 Reading Instruction 

Organization: State Policy Network