The Hechinger Report is a national nonprofit newsroom that reports on one topic: education. Sign up for our weekly newsletters to get stories like this delivered directly to your inbox.

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

Episode 6: The Reckoning

Lucy Calkins says she has learned from the science of reading. She’s revised her materials. (Disclosure: The Hechinger Report, which republished this podcast, is an independent unit of Teachers College at Columbia University, where Calkins serves as a professor.) Irene Fountas and Gay Su 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.

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

The Hechinger Report provides in-depth, fact-based, unbiased reporting on education that is free to all readers. But that doesn't mean it's free to produce. Our work keeps educators and the public informed about pressing issues at schools and on campuses throughout the country. We tell the whole story, even when the details are inconvenient. Help us keep doing that.

Join us today.

Letters to the Editor

1 Letter

At The Hechinger Report, we publish thoughtful letters from readers that contribute to the ongoing discussion about the education topics we cover. Please read our guidelines for more information. We will not consider letters that do not contain a full name and valid email address. You may submit news tips or ideas here without a full name, but not letters.

By submitting your name, you grant us permission to publish it with your letter. We will never publish your email address. You must fill out all fields to submit a letter.

  1. Loved this! I am a retired teacher who taught in Fairfax County, Virginia. I had a young principal who came to our school in 1990 and banned phonics being taught/used. She had no idea that it was a valuable tool in teaching reading… but she was following what the county had decided to pursue. It was called “Whole Language.” Yes, Lucy Calkins was the reference book we all had to read and follow. I retired in 1996. At the same time, we were told by our math head, do not make children memorize basic facts. I am so happy that parents are waking up to way teachers have been teaching. Parents NEED to be involved! I am loving the news about the Science of Reading and the many school systems adopting it. I am hoping math will get the same attention and interest.

Submit a letter

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *