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 • 3.8K 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 in the United States 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 episodeSupport: Donate to APMMore: 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 episodeSupport: Donate to APMMore: 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 episodeSupport: Donate to APMMore: 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 episodeSupport: Donate to APMMore: 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 the products used to teach reading 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 episodeSupport: Donate to APMMore: 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 to teach reading 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 instructionOrganize: Sold a Story discussion guide Read: Transcript of this episodeSupport: Donate to APMMore: soldastory.org

    • 41 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
3.8K Ratings

3.8K Ratings

MissME1985 ,

Now do the same for Math instruction.

Many teachers are heavily aware of this issue, we’re in the trenches. We know when something isn’t working. The powers that be override us everytime. Math instruction is also severely lacking. “Let the kids come up with their own strategies” is the recent motto. Wait until you open that Pandoras Box.

Excellent reporting. Excellent podcast.

Sincerely,
A 16 year public school teacher

Lommomof3 ,

Wow

Thank you for exposing this! A whole generation that has fallen behind. Emily Hanford, please PLEASE start investigating the effects of iPads/chromebooks in schools.

good for carol ,

Wow!

Fantastic reporting. This sorry needed to be told! Thank you.

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