Sold a Story

Sold a Story

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.

Episodes

October 13, 2022 2 mins

Sold a Story is a six-part series beginning with two episodes on October 20.


More: soldastory.org

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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 list
Read: Transcript of this epis...

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October 20, 2022 51 mins

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 list
Read: Transcript of this episode
Support: Donate to APM
More: sold...

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October 27, 2022 41 mins

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 episode
Support: Donate to APM
More: soldastory.org


Dive deeper into Sold a Story with a multi-part email series from hos...

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November 3, 2022 33 mins

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 episode
Support: Donate to APM
More: soldastory.org


Dive deeper into Sold a Story with a multi-part...

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November 10, 2022 47 mins

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 reach
Read: Transcript of this episode
Support: Donate to APM
More: soldastory.o...

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November 17, 2022 41 mins

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.


Map: How states approach reading instruction
Organize: Sold a Story discussion guide
Read: Transcript of this episode

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The parents knew something wasn’t right. The school said everything would be fine. But their kids weren’t learning how to read. In this documentary, originally published in September 2017, we look at why kids with dyslexia have a hard time getting the help they need in school.


Read more: How American schools fail kids with dyslexia
Q&A: What is dyslexia, with neuroscientist Guinevere Eden


Support this show: ...

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Jack Silva had a problem. He was the chief academic officer of a school district in Pennsylvania, and more than 40% of the kids in his district were not proficient readers. He didn't know much about how kids learn to read, but he knew he had to figure it out. Originally published in September 2018, this documentary helped ignite a national conversation about the science of reading. Winner of an EWA Public Service Award...

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Molly Woodworth had a secret: She couldn’t read very well. She fought her way through text by looking at the first letter of a word and thinking of something that made sense.  Reading was slow and laborious. Then she learned that her daughter's school was actually teaching kids to read that way. In this documentary, originally published in August 2019, host Emily Hanford reveals that many kids are being taught the habi...

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April 6, 2023 53 mins

There are kids like C.J. all over the country. Schools tell their parents they are reading at grade level, but the kids are not. And whether they ever get the help they need can depend a lot on their family income and their race. In this documentary, originally published in August 2020, host Emily Hanford shows that America’s approach to reading instruction is having an especially devastating impact on children of color.

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This week we have an episode of a show called Brains On. It’s a science podcast for kids from our colleagues at APM. In this episode, Emily joins the Brains On hosts to talk about how people learn to read. Grab the kids in your life and listen to this special episode made for kids and curious adults.


More: brainson.org


Support our show: Donate to APM Reports


Dive deeper into Sold a Story with a multi-part email...

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May 11, 2023 25 mins

Voicemails, emails, tweets: We got a lot of messages from people after they heard Sold a Story. In this episode, we bring you some of their voices. A 10-year-old figures out why he has struggled to read. A mom stays up late to binge the podcast. A teacher confirms what he's suspected for years — he's not really teaching kids how to read.  


Read: Messages from our listeners
More: soldastory.org


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May 18, 2023 24 mins

Across the country, school districts are dropping textbooks, state legislatures are going so far as to ban teaching methods, and everyone, it seems, is talking about "the science of reading." Things have been changing since Sold a Story was released. In this episode, we tell you about some of the changes and what we think about them. 


Read: Legislators look to change reading instruction
More: soldastory.or...

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March 19, 2024 6 mins

A Spanish adaptation of Sold a Story is now available. Hosted by journalist Valeria Fernández, the podcast is condensed into one 58-minute episode, plus a conversation between Fernández and Emily Hanford for Spanish-speaking parents whose children are learning to read English in American schools.


- Listen or share: Sold a Story en español
- Learn more: soldastory.es

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April 4, 2024 27 mins

Schools around the country are changing the way they teach reading. And that is having major consequences for people who sold the flawed theory we investigated in Sold a Story. But Lucy Calkins, Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell are fighting back — and fighting to stay relevant. And so are organizations that promoted their work: The Reading Recovery Council of North America and the publisher, Heinemann.


Read: Two univer...

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April 11, 2024 31 mins

Some of the teachers, students, parents and researchers we met in Sold a Story talk about the impact the podcast has had on their lives and in schools — and share some of their hopes and concerns about the “science of reading” movement. 


Portraits: Zoe and Lee Gaul, Christine Cronin, Reid Lyon
Email us: soldastory@apmreports.org


Video: Mark Seidenberg at Yale
Article: Seidenberg on translating the science
...

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