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
    • 4.8 • 2.7K 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

4.8 out of 5
2.7K Ratings

2.7K Ratings

DentalHy2 ,

Eye-opening!

As a mother of 3 (grown now) and grandparent of 5; I found this horrifying, shocking and eye-opening. Who knew? We entrusted our children to the school to ‘teach them to read’. I knew my grandkids were using ‘sight words’, but I didn’t understand beyond that.

This is a must listen. A must share!

Fork art ,

Loved it

Great information for people inside and out of the education field

KyleWalker2012 ,

Fascinating!

This explains so many things going on with my own kids and the things I’ve heard over the years from family in the education field. I hope that we can correct this going forward.

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