A conversation with Emily Hanford on reading instruction in the U.S.

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APM Reports correspondent Emily Hanford started wondering about how kids learn to read a few years ago while she was reporting on the large number of college students who aren't academically ready. She was surprised to learn that 40 percent of college students have to take remedial or developmental classes before they even get into a college-level class. Many of the students she talked with told her they had dyslexia, but it had gone unaddressed for years.

"Dyslexia opened up this Pandora's box about reading that's kept me going now for the better part of the last three years," Hanford says.

She's since produced three audio documentaries about the way reading is taught in schools, including one about dyslexia, one about why so many kids in the U.S. struggle to read and one about a flawed idea in reading instruction that's taken hold in many classrooms. Hanford's documentaries have ignited a national conversation about how schools teach reading. We asked readers and listeners to send in questions so we could talk with Emily about her reporting on the reading science, what's being taught in classrooms and what's next.

If you're interested in learning more about the science of reading, Hanford recommends Ending the Reading Wars: From Novice to Expert as well as What Research Tells Us About Reading Instruction. In this episode, she mentions a report by Australian researcher Kevin Wheldall on the efficacy of some instructional reading programs and whether they are "conceptually consistent." You can read the full report by Wheldall here.

For more, check out the resources page for our documentaries Hard to Read and Hard Words. Also, be sure to check out the footnotes with links embedded in the web story of At a Loss for Words.


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