Hard Truths About Reading: Why Kids Can’t Read

While the goal of reading instruction is to help students develop skills to become capable, enthusiastic readers in order to succeed in school and in life, our national scores are failing. That’s why local nonprofit Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities is hosting “Hard Truths About Reading: Why Kids Can’t Read” on December 7 with reading experts Emily Hanford and Margie Gillis, Ed.D.

A beacon for educators, administrators, parents and concerned citizens, the event will offer evidence of the tremendous importance of science-backed literacy instruction. Close to home, new legislation in Connecticut now requires the adoption of an approved, evidence-based curriculum for reading instruction. The evening takes place at Norwalk Community College Theater at 7pm, free of charge.

In view of the latitude of individual school districts to determine which reading curriculum to employ, and substantial achievement losses due to the pandemic, the need for everyone concerned with our children’s education to understand the significance of adopting a consistent, research-backed reading curriculum has never been greater.

“There is no more critical task in school than teaching children to read, particularly given the dismal statistics recently released. The Nation’s Report Card shows that 74% of 4th graders with IEPs did not meet the most basic level of achievement; in other words, they are functionally illiterate. This event offers compelling grounds for bringing the science of reading to our schools,” said Jane Ross, Executive Director of Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities.

Speakers for the event include reading experts Emily Hanford, of APM Media, and Margie Gillis, Ed.D. In 2017, Emily Hanford, an award-winning APM Media Producer, began investigating how children are taught to read. In a series of widely-respected reports, she helped teachers, parents and policymakers recognize widespread flaws in instruction and helped spark a movement to bring the science of reading to schools. Recently Hanford launched a new podcast, Sold a Story: How Teaching Kids to Read Went So Wrong, ranking top of the Apple Podcast chart for Society & Culture in the U.S.

Margie Gillis, Ed.D., is a nationally recognized reading expert and academic language therapist. She is the President of Literacy How, instructing teachers in science-based literacy instruction, and a research affiliate at the Haskins Labs, based at Yale University. Gillis, co-founder and former president of Smart Kids with LD, has played a role in developing Connecticut’s policies on universal screening and teacher preparation for reading instruction.

“Five decades of research has largely been ignored by schools of education, publishing companies, and policymakers. Ms. Hanford’s investigative reporting and storytelling have raised the public’s awareness and sounded an alarm that cannot be ignored. We know how to teach all children to read. It’s time to engage all stakeholders to make that happen,” said Gillis.

When it comes to reading (as well as math and science), U.S. students rank below many other advanced industrial nations. More troubling, perhaps, is that the gap between top and lower-performing students in reading is growing.

“Flawed reading instruction, coupled with the recent pandemic has had devastating effects on learning.

It is time for states across the country to take corrective action in teaching reading, as Connecticut is in the process of doing, so that students have a chance at competing in the global economy,” said Ross.

The event is currently sold out, but a recording will be available soon. To learn more about Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities, please visit smartkidswithld.org.

Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities would like to thank the following sponsors for making this event possible, including Gold Sponsors: The Southport School, The Cedar School, The Pinnacle School; Silver Sponsors: Dana Jonson Law Offices; Kate Pearce Educational Services; and Bronze Sponsors: Raymond Educational Center and Diane Willcutts Education Advocacy, LLC.


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