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This podcast, Sold a Story, was produced by APM Reports and reprinted with permission.

There’s an idea about how children learn to read that’s held sway in schools for more than a generation – even though it was proven wrong by cognitive scientists decades ago. Teaching methods based on this idea can make it harder for children to learn how to read.

In this new American Public Media podcast, host Emily Hanford investigates the influential authors who promote this idea and the company that sells their work. It’s an exposé of how educators came to believe in something that isn’t true and are now reckoning with the consequences – children harmed, money wasted, an education system upended.

Related: Reading Matters: See more Hechinger coverage of reading instruction

Bonus Episode 1: Your words

APM Reports heard from more than 1,000 people in response to its Sold a Story podcast. Nearly 40 percent were teachers. Most teach elementary school, though the podcast team heard from many teachers in upper grades, too. After teachers, the largest group was parents. Three quarters of the parents who wrote in said they were worried about their own child’s reading progress. For many families, thinking about reading instruction was new. Listeners in 47 states and Washington, D.C. called or wrote in, as did people in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Argentina, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Ecuador, Poland and Switzerland.

This podcast was produced by APM Reports and reprinted with permission.

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  1. Dear Hechinger Team,
    Having taught in an inner-city community college, I’ve been reading education newsletters for at least forty years, covering higher ed, elementary, and everything in between. In all that time, all those writers have missed, ignored, or dismissed the need for mandatory consumer science education. It is no mystery why the most “educated” and most prosperous country in the world, an economy based on consumer behavior, is now 40% populated by people so fearful that guns outnumber people, so poor that food comes from charities, and so ignorant about human health that the U.S. lifespan is the shortest of all developed countries. Why don’t educators and writers ever discuss the need for mandatory Human Ecology education K-14? The human conditions are apparent, and it is taught in 10-15 colleges. Do they think only college-educated people will need to steer through our complicated human ecosystem? Educators have failed to teach the children of this country how to be functional adults, feed themselves, wear safe, appropriate clothing, manage a home, grasp consumer law, handle money, plan a future, raise a child, contribute to the community, navigate complex social systems, and stop abusing nature. The most prosperous countries in the developed world teach their people how to live, but not the U.S.! I fault everyone in the educational system for believing that ‘education’ means knowing how to be a good worker — mainly now for the benefit of corporations.
    A complete education is and has always been first knowing about the reality of daily life and how to be a knowledgeable, responsible human being, and second about acquiring a profession. Teach in that order, and we’ll have a future.

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