7 episodes

Millions of kids can't read well. Scientists have known for decades how children learn to read but many schools are ignoring the research. They buy teacher training and books that are rooted in a disproven idea. Emily Hanford investigates four authors and a publishing company that have made millions selling this idea.

Sold a Story American Public Media

    • Society & Culture
    • 5.0 • 162 Ratings

Millions of kids can't read well. Scientists have known for decades how children learn to read but many schools are ignoring the research. They buy teacher training and books that are rooted in a disproven idea. Emily Hanford investigates four authors and a publishing company that have made millions selling this idea.

    1: The Problem

    1: The Problem

    Corinne Adams watches her son’s lessons during Zoom school and discovers a dismaying truth: He can’t read. Little Charlie isn’t the only one. Sixty-five percent of fourth graders are not proficient readers. Kids need to learn specific skills to become good readers, and in many schools, those skills are not being taught.

    Read: Emily Hanford’s reading listRead: Transcript of this episodeMore: soldastory.org

    • 32 min
    2: The Idea

    2: The Idea

    Sixty years ago, Marie Clay developed a way to teach reading she said would help kids who were falling behind. They’d catch up and never need help again. Today, her program remains popular and her theory about how people read is at the root of a lot of reading instruction in schools. But Marie Clay was wrong. 

    Read: Emily Hanford’s reading listRead: Transcript of this episodeMore: soldastory.org

    • 51 min
    3: The Battle

    3: The Battle

    President George W. Bush made improving reading instruction a priority. He got Congress to provide money to schools that used reading programs supported by scientific research. But backers of Marie Clay’s cueing idea saw Bush’s Reading First initiative as a threat.

    Read: Transcript of this episodeMore: soldastory.org

    • 41 min
    4: The Superstar

    4: The Superstar

    Teachers sing songs about Teachers College Columbia professor Lucy Calkins. She’s one of the most influential people in American elementary education today. Her admirers call her books bibles. Why didn't she know that scientific research contradicted reading strategies she promoted?

    Read: Transcript of this episodeMore: soldastory.org

    • 33 min
    5: The Company

    5: The Company

    Teachers call books published by Heinemann their “bibles.” The company’s products are in schools all over the country. Some of those products are rooted in a debunked idea about how children learn to read. But they’ve made the company and some of its authors millions.

    Map: Heinemann’s national reachRead: Transcript of this episodeMore: soldastory.org

    • 47 min
    6: The Reckoning

    6: The Reckoning

    Lucy Calkins says she has learned from the science of reading. She’s revised her materials. Fountas and Pinnell have not revised theirs. Their publisher, Heinemann, is still selling some products that contain debunked practices. Parents, teachers and lawmakers want answers. In our final episode, we try to get some answers. 

    Map: How states approach reading instructionRead: Transcript of this episodeMore: soldastory.org

    • 42 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
162 Ratings

162 Ratings

Miss Maizie May ,

Sold a Story - A Must Listen

This is highly recommended for parents, teachers and anyone who has ever been to school and was taught to read. Prepare to be enraged when you learn how big business, greed and a theory duped so many of us. When you are done listening, if you are a teacher - learn more - there are tons of resources online to start your journey. If you are a parent, whether they are a good reading or not, talk to your school administrator and advocate for change for all children. Also, spread the word, share this podcast with as many people as you can. Big business is still trying to maintain their hold, together we can change the future for this generation of readers and generations to come.

Sabinerules ,

Excellent and so needed

Canadian listener here and we have a similar situation. Check out the Ontario Human Rights Commission ‘Right to Read Inquiry’ report. I heard my own child’s story in your first episode. I encourage listeners to look up the literacy proficiency rates where they live as I expect they may be shocked how low they are. Our challenging future needs a generation who is educated and reading is often that gateway to education. We need to fix this- yesterday.

Dwdwdwwd ,

Outstanding

This is really well put together. Emily Hanford is excellent at articulating this issue. As an educator, it is disappointing that this had to be accomplished by a journalist and not someone working in the education system.

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