Sold a Story

By American Public Media

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 Nov 15, 2022
I am a teacher and a parent and have felt frustrated by the hours I need to spend teaching my kids how to read. Finally here is an answer as to why so many kids struggle. A call to make significant research based changes in how we teach reading.


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.

Episode Date
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 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 instruction
Read: Transcript of this episode

Nov 17, 2022
5: The Company

Teachers call books published by Heinemann their “bibles.” The company’s products are in schools all over the country. Some of those products 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

Nov 10, 2022
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 episode

Nov 03, 2022
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 episode

Oct 27, 2022
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 list
Read: Transcript of this episode

Oct 20, 2022
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 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 episode

Oct 20, 2022
Coming Soon: Sold a Story

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


Oct 13, 2022